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Ronaldinho and Neymar once played out arguably the best game of football ever

This week's Libero column remembers when Ronaldinho and Neymar faced off in 2011 with spectacular results

What happens when an immovable object meets an unstoppable force?

Stupid question, neither exist. But what happens when two of the most skilled Brazilians in the history of football come head to head?

On 27 July 2011 we found out. Neymar’s Santos took on Ronaldinho’s Flamengo in the Estadio Urbano Caldeira.

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A rare picture of Ronaldinho not smiling

AP:Associated Press
A rare picture of Ronaldinho not smiling

Master and apprentice

Although we didn’t know it at the time, Ronaldinho’s European career, which had seen him light up PSG, Barcelona and Milan, was over by the time he pitched up at Flamengo.

His pace had gone but the feet were still as magical as ever. They’d undeniably be the best feet in Brazil were it not for a man on the opposite team.

Neymar da Silva Santos Junior was embarrassing defenders with gleeful ease.

His playing style, along with the fact he was a product of Santos’ youth academy, meant comparisons with Pele were inevitable.

Thankfully he grew out of that lid

Thankfully he grew out of that lid

Supporting cast

Ronaldinho and Neymar weren’t the only stars on show when Santos hosted Flamengo.

Santos’ side boasted a supporting cast of Elano and Paulo Ganso, who’s now at Sevilla, while Flamengo could call upon former Fenerbahce striker Deivid and tricky winger Thiago Neves.

Flamengo coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo spent two years in charge of Brazil between 1998 and 2000, winning Copa America with Ronaldo and co in 1999, as well as managing Real Madrid.

Luxemburgo had the honour of managing Jonathan Woodgate at Real Madrid

AP:Associated Press
Luxemburgo had the honour of managing Jonathan Woodgate at Real Madrid

Big first 15 lads

Santos came out of the blocks at a lighting pace.

After 15 minutes the home side found themselves two goals up, thanks to a double from Brazilian one-cap wonder Borges.

The first was assisted by a lovely disguised pass from Elano while the second saw Ganso and Neymar combine before the latter’s bicycle kick gave Borges a tap in.


Puskas Award

We’re not going to speak.

No words are necessary.

Just watch what Neymar did to Flamengo to make it 3-0 to Santos.

Enter Ronaldinho

Ronaldinho was being outplayed at his own game. All the skills, flicks and goals were coming from the boots of Neymar.

Enough was enough. Ronaldinho pulled a goal back after 29 minutes, tapping home from the six-yard line, before Neves headed home three minutes later to make it 3-2.

The comeback was on.

Any excuse to get this picture of Ronaldinho at carnival in

Any excuse to get this picture of Ronaldinho at carnival in

If you’re going to do it, do it right

Far from panicking, Santos settled and a lighting run down the left flank saw Neymar brought down for a penalty.

Elano started his run up from outside the penalty box. Twelve steps later he arrived at the ball, ready to take the leather off it.

What happened next? He meekly chipped it down the goalkeeper’s throat.


Tit for tat

Ronaldinho swung a perfect corner onto the head of Deivid to level up the scores two minutes before half-time.

But the young pretender wasn’t having it. Neymar got in behind Flamengo’s full-back and finished with the impish cheek of a ludicrously talented teenager to put Santos back ahead.

Not to be outdone, Ronaldinho rolled the ball under Santos’ wall from a free-kick to equalise once again. Why go over when you can go under?


Experience wins out

Both sides flew forward looking for a winner.

When a Santos attack broke down Flamengo smelled blood, streaming forward to create a three on two.

Neves stood his man up and slid the ball to Ronaldinho, who did the rest. Game won, 5-4. Time to breathe.

It might not be the best game ever, but it’s definitely in the top one.