The magical moments that defined Ronaldinho's career

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Madrid, SPAIN: Real Madrid's Michel Salgado (L) vies with Barcelona's Ronaldinho (R) during their Spanish League football match at Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, 19 November, 2005. AFP PHOTO JAVIER SORIANO
JAVIER SORIANO / AFP / Getty

Ronaldinho was once - if ever too briefly - the greatest footballer in the world. Having announced his retirement at long last, the Brazil icon steps away from the game with worldwide affection, garnered from a career defined by focusing on the "play" part of playing football.

Off the field, Ronaldinho was a laid-back party-lover and a viral sensation, but for a few years, the Porto Alegre-born attacker dominated the sport so thoroughly and with a such an infectious smile that he will forever remain listed among the stars who made the beautiful game exactly that.

Here are the most magical moments born of the boot of Ronaldinho Gaucho:

That free-kick goal against England

Poor David Seaman must have replayed this goal in his head for decades - certainly, highlight packages had this audacious free-kick goal on repeat for years after, as Ronaldinho dumped England out of the 2002 World Cup.

Blistering debut goal against Sevilla

Ronaldinho joined Barcelona out of Paris Saint-Germain and quickly endeared himself to the Camp Nou faithful, scoring this incredible long-range strike in a 1-1 draw with Sevilla, rounding off a daring run that started in his own half.

Charming Chelsea in the Champions League

Ronaldinho's wildly successful 2004-05 campaign delivered many memorable moments, including this stand-still strike that left Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech bamboozled in the Champions League. Though it did not prove enough to save Barcelona's European campaign, this improbable effort survived the test of time nonetheless.

Introducing the world to Lionel Messi

Ronaldinho's brilliant vision provided a then-17-year-old Lionel Messi with his very first La Liga goal. Messi scored off Ronaldinho's chip pass, and the two unknowingly celebrated the birth of a new legend.

A standing ovation at the Bernabeu

It was the match that truly defined Ronaldinho's brilliance - a hat-trick against Real Madrid, inspiring a standing ovation from the rival crowd at the Santiago Bernabeu. Ronaldinho won over the entire world with this iconic showing.

His self-assisted bicycle-kick goal

Ronaldinho's ability to manipulate the ball led to a wide array of skills, flicks, and tricks when he dribbled past defenders, but this goal against Villarreal saw him combine his magical control with his finishing touch. Over the head it goes.

The 'Neymar vs. Ronaldinho' game

Ronaldinho helped direct the collective attention over to another young star on the rise in this famous Brazilian league tilt in 2011. Ronaldinho, at Flamengo, scored a hat-trick to defeat Neymar's Santos, though Neymar also scored a brace in this wild back-and-forth. It ranks among the most memorable matches in Brazilian footballing history.