Ronaldinho: The Happiest Man in the World, 2022.
Directed by Andrew Douglas and Stewart Douglas.
Featuring Ronaldinho Gaúcho, Guillem Balagué, Juan Laporta, Lionel Messi, Thiago Motta.
A look at the life of the iconic Brazilian soccer star Ronaldinho, focusing on his childhood and a career defining stint playing for Barcelona FC.
Football documentaries are ten-a-penny, but players like Ronaldinho most definitely are not. He is an icon who was a precursor to the Ronaldo versus Lionel Messi debate, and perhaps because of the dominance those two have held over the last twenty years, his legacy outside of 5000 word articles written by football purists may have been diminished somewhat. Replaced instead by stories of a 6-month stint in a Paraguayan prison, or the way in which his star faded following his spellbinding period at Barcelona. Despite these things, the kid with the iconic smile still continues to sport that same grin, and this documentary from Andrew Douglas and Stewart Douglas will ensure that you have your own look of happiness on your face throughout.
Taking a similar approach to many a recent football documentary, the film focuses on a certain period of time as the narrative thread of the story, and then flits back and forth like Ronaldinho with the ball at his feet to his childhood and present day.
All three elements have their strengths, but it’s his life away from the hallowed turf of Barcelona’s Nou Camp stadium where the real interest can be found. Anyone familiar with Ronaldinho will be aware of his no-look pass, or the toe-punt finish against Chelsea in the Champions League, or the “did he really mean that?” free kick against England in the World Cup, but it’s the moments in which we see this young boy, tutored in the back garden by his brother and father, explode into life on an indoor 5-a-side pitch in Brazil, that smile breaking onto his face, that the documentary finds its rhythm.
Such sequences provide a great counterpoint to how the documentary frames Ronaldinho in the present day. The loss of his father is etched on a face which sometimes betrays the perennially upbeat superstar. There are a few scenes of self-reflection, especially a walk around his childhood home with his brother, which add a real element of pathos to his story, reinforcing the importance of family to Ronaldinho. Always by his side, his brother is also his agent, a relationship that can so often be tabloid fodder when it comes to soccer players. How transparent this all is we’ll never know, but here it’s presented as an unbreakable, loving bond, integral in helping him become the superstar he was.
Testament to the supernova of a player that he was can be found in the footage of his career defining years at Barcelona. A crumbling giant when he joined them, a time when the name Messi (who contributes warmly here) was only on the lips of the Under-13s manager, so much pressure was heaped upon this generational talent, and boy did he deliver. It’s astonishing to watch Ronaldinho do what he does, because nobody does it quite like him, before or since.
The Happiest Man in the World is a reminder of an elite player who brought a smile to the faces of fans the world over that was almost as big as his own. In this era of egos and exposure, the film paints a portrait of a man who when you strip away the stepovers and the skills, simply wanted to entertain.
Ronaldinho: The Happiest Man in the World is currently available to stream on FIFA+
Flickering Myth Rating – Film ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★ ★
Matt Rodgers – Follow me on Twitter