It was November 19, 2005: Matchday 12 of La Liga 2005/2006. The defending champions FC Barcelona were facing a hyped Real Madrid side: The Galacticos as they were called by the sport media. And truth be told, what happened that evening was, to use a cliché, out of this world.

In the early stages of the clash Samuel Eto’o had put the Blaugranas in the lead and Barça controlled the game with absolute dominance, topping off their performance with two acts of wizardry from the man from Porto Alegre.

The first one came in the 59th minute: Ronaldinho received the ball from Deco at the halfway line, sprinted on Bernabéu’s grass, dribbled past Sergio Ramos with a devious hip move, feinted Helguera with a samba-esque body motion and beat Casillas with a precise shot to the near post. Ronaldinho had just finished a dazzling goal in one of his most magical nights, the night he would receive a standing ovation from the Bernabéu.

“When Ronaldinho scored that goal when he got rid of everyone, even his teammates, I stood there in disbelief, looked to one side and muttered to myself: ‘But, what is happening?’ It was unbelievable,” confesses Samuel Eto’o to Barça TV.

Our protagonist has a rather humble way of remembering the events: “Mine were simple goals, I just went off running with the ball and eventually I was lucky enough to shoot to Casillas’ opposite side.”

Nonetheless, Ronaldinho cherishes very deeply one of the most telling Clásicos in recent times, an absolute demonstration of ‘jogo bonito’: “The derbies are always different particularly in Spain because the whole country grinds to a halt to watch this match. So, the training the previous week was always different and that day was very special to me. That match day at the Bernabéu was a beautiful experience. It was a great match, not only from my part but from the whole team. We played really well and I remember the whole match.”

His second goal in the 78th minute was almost a carbon copy of the first one. A sprint facing Ramos who looked helpless while running alongside the Brazilian and, with almost no angle to the goal, the Brazilian fired a crossed shot to seal a complete thrashing, producing that everlasting image of Iker Casillas saying to himself: “Yo flipo (I’m hallucinating).” indeed, we all were.

And then it happened. A mustachioed man, with a Real Madrid scarf over his neck, stood up and started cheering what he just had witnessed. The Bernabéu surrendered to Ronaldinho’s exhibition, acknowledging a performance worthy of a standing ovation.

The Gaúcho didn’t even realize that he was being applauded: “No, I didn’t realize in the moment. I remembered when we arrived to the locker room and everybody was talking about it and I went to check it on the tv. Because of the joy of scoring and the celebration, I didn’t notice the standing ovation. It’s special. Only a few players have had this joy of being acclaimed by the fans of your archrivals in a derby.”

And only a few have represented the delight for the beautiful game as Ronaldo de Assis Moreira, the perennial smile, the joy of football.

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