Zidane vs Ronaldinho

Well. Two of the best attacking midfield players in history, Zidane and Ronaldinho both brought their own brand of football, unique only to themselves which showed the world that there is more than one way playing the beautiful game.

Zidane showed the whole world how one can become the greatest midfield player of all time by not going down the same route as 20 thousand other people do, that is strength, speed and cheat in order to muscle out the opponent, outwit the opponent (though he did it, in a different way) or out run the opponent.

Ronaldinho on the other hand showed the world that it was possible to play like you want to play as a child and still be one of the best of your generation. The variety in his game (in both player’s game) was incredible.

I mean now a days, you see Messi (I know he is some player) shredding grass down the right with his left foot, cutting inside. Doing the same thing again and again, beating defenders as if they were stationary cardboard figures and scoring goals after goals.

Albeit, great for Barcelona fans, but admit it, not much variety in what he does in his general game play. Whereas on the other side you got Ronaldo. Who seems to learn new tricks and flicks every game and tries to impose them on the play rather than wait for the appropriate situation.

Sometimes it feels like Ronaldo does not really care (or rather, does not really know) what the defender is doing, all he cares is that, he has to execute the new trick he learnt regardless of actually thinking about the outcome of that trick. If it works it works and if it does then…well..it doesn’t.

Zidane and Ronaldinho were both the kind of players that they knew what they were doing on the field. They did not just learn the tricks and executed them. They learnt on the field and evolved, many of their dribbles are not the ones you can work on in the training field.

Most of their dribbles are some variant of the standard ones. Like everybody knows how to do a elastico (where you take a ball with your dominant foot and in one motion move it from right to left or left to right (if you are a left footed player) but why was Ronaldinho’s elastico so effective.

Because he did not execute it the same way time and time again. He changed it little by little, which was enough to off put the defender, whereas I have hardly seen C.Ronaldo (known for his tricks) actually beat a player with an elastico.

He may have executed an elastico on a defender but that always seems to be for the cameras rather than to beat the defender, he always uses his pace to beat defenders. Messi is a bit more, ADJUSTING. He also looks at the variables that are present on the field not the ones he had in training and then according evolves his dribbles.

He looks for mistakes in the defenders stance or his balance. Looks at where the defender has given him that extra layer of thin air and then slides the ball across him to leave him in his dust, but he has only one or two ways of doing that. Whereas Zidane and Ronaldinho, had I don’t know how many ways of doing the same thing.

That is what made their careers so illustrious though Ronaldinho sort of started late. I mean Ronaldinho was not a whizkid who scored 40 or 50 goals in a season (He never did that actually) like Ronaldo or Messi, but when he did get into his groove, say like in his middle 20s then he showed the world a totally different brand of football.

He did some moves which were never seen before. Some people thought he got them made from heaven well others thought, well it was just pure brilliance. Ronaldinho and Zidane, basically had every trick in the book (and some more) but you cannot really say the same for C.Ronaldo and Messi though both are scoring way more goals then both of the former greats ever did.

But how do they do against each other. Zidane and Ronaldinho. Both are legends, both had great potential. The level of their forms were the level of potential for most other players playing in their positions. Well, lets have a look at who is better between the two of them by looking at different statistics.

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I am going to mark according to the level they played at, at their peaks because both of them have basically passed it. Zidane has retired while, Ronaldinho now, has surely passed it, was not even called up for the world cup for whatever reason (by the way, I do think that was unjustified move by Dunga). Anyway, here goes:


I think they were both capable of making good crosses but Ronaldinho gets this one for me, his consistency was more than Zidane, may be it was the system they both played under, in their peaks (by the way, Zidane’s peak lasted way way longer than Ronaldinho’s) and also because Ronaldinho played as a winger many more times than Zidane.

Zidane could also make some really good ones but he just did not get himself into that situation often enough, because he did not need to.

Ronaldinho actually,also became known for making wonderful crosses and lobbed passes.


Draw. I think it is a draw. Both could finish well better than C.Ronaldo and Messi in my opinion. Ronaldinho probably could be given the edge considering the type of goals he scored, again because of the positions and situations he had at Barcelona, he actually had chances to finish a move.

Zidane,wasmore of a creator rather than a scorer but did score goals and some beautiful goals.


Zidane for sure. Ronaldinho has a pretty average header but Zidane could head the ball (and some people too) really well. Zidane also scored in the World Cup against Brazil through a header, in fact I think he scored two of those.

Also his goal in his last match for Real Madrid, both home and away, scored some beautiful headed goals.


I think for long passes Ronaldinho wins it and for short passes Zidane wins it. For through balls, I think Zidane edges it, in terms of the consistency and the weight of the pass. Ronaldinho sometimes made some magicall through balls but put a bit too much spin on them.

Ronaldinho’s long passes were probably better. At Barcelona, he made some good quality lobbed passes throughout his career there. One that comes to mind was the brilliant pass he made to Guily I think in the Champions League against AC Milan.

Weak foot:

This one goes to Zidane for sure. Ronaldinho used his left foot way way less than Zidane. In fact, Ronaldinho used the outside of his right foot more just to avoid his left foot. He did score some magnificent goals with the left foot as well but Zidane’s were more brilliant and more consistent.

Zidane could also pass the ball really well with the left foot too.

But I have seen Zidane score goals from the half way line with his left foot which for me, was the ultimate goal which led to me believing that he was a true two footed player. He did not just have a swinger like C.Ronaldo’s or Ronaldinho’s, he had a proper left foot, but even his left foot had some weaknesses at some angles.

His miss while playing for Real Madrid will always be remembered when he beat a defender with a 360 after a one two with Ronaldo, then beat the keeper with his right foot but missed the goal. Had he used his left foot there, I think he could have scored a magnificent goal.


Zidane. For sure. His volley in the Champions League final against Bayern Leverkusen is more than enough to show that he could volley the ball really well. By the way, that volley was also from a left foot.

He scored numerous goals from volleys throughout his career with Real Madrid. I don’t remember Ronaldinho scoring a goal with a volley. Oh wait, he did, this season in fact (that is 2009-2010 season) against Manchester United. Though the ball took a huge deflection, he hit a pretty good volley.

Sad AC Milan lost that tie badly, when Manchester United beat them something like 4-0 at Old Trafford.


Tie. I think it is a tie. Ronaldinho had quick feet and so did Zidane. Both beatplayerseasily.ZidaneIthinkwasmorefluid at beating players while Ronaldinho used his zig zag runs and his unusual body stance to beat players. C.Ronaldo cannot do that, Messi can do that with his eyes closed.

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Ronaldinho came close, many times to scoring that Maradonna goal but just could not finish well. Zidane, I don’t remember him scoring or coming close to scoring a Maradonna goal except in a international game against Portugal or Spain was it.


That depends really which part of the field you are looking at. Zidane had great curve on his shots while Ronaldinho had a lot of curve on his free kicks.

The only goal I have ever seen with Zidane scoring with an outrageous amount of curve was against Villareal. Whereas for Ronaldinho, it was like every other match he scored from his free kicks with so much curve.

Zidane, while at Juventus took a lot of free kicks and did curve the ball superbly but at Real Madrid, he was 3rd in the line after Roberto Carlos, Figo and then later on, Beckham.

Free kicks:

Ronaldinho. Short answer. It was his specialty. Zidane, as I mentioned before stopped taking free kicks similar to Theirry henry. Henry scored massive amount of goals with free kicks while playing at Arsenal but just did not get the chance at Barcelona. First there was Ronaldinho ahead of him and then Daniel Alves.

Though at their peaks, both could take magnificent set piece kicks. Zidane’s goal against England in the Euro’ s should remind everyone of his ability to score from free kicks but I think, Ronaldinho probably edges it even then.

Ball control:

Zidane by a country mile wins this one. His first touch was the greatest first touch I have ever seen. He was so comfortable on the ball. Never saw him actually loose a ball because of his bad control, not saying he never did, but I just never saw.

Ronaldinho, on the other hand had a great first touch. First touch is always important no matter where you play, how you play, but I cannot really say who had the better first touch Ronaldinho or Beckham but I can certainly say that Zidane had the best first touch.

Even in pressure situations his first touch rarely let him down, in fact, it helped him more often than not in tight big matches and that small bit of change in direction of the ball set Zidane apart from anyone of his era, playing at his position.

Zidane’s class of first touch became even more prominent when Real Madrid played in the Champions League. Many of the other Real Madrid players lost the quality of their first touch due to nervousness but Zidane’s remained as smooth and as controlled as it can get.

Shot Power:

I would say Zidane. Zidanehasscored more long range goals than Ronaldinho, specially at Juventus. Again, it is not as if to say Ronaldinho was not good at long shots. He was really good but when compared with Zidane, I think Zidane edges it. Though it also has to be said that Ronaldinho had too many weapons to try on defenders rather than just take the long shot and get it over it with.


Pretty much the same. Now a days the fitness regime is fairly strict for everybody. Zidane, though naturally was not a gifted player physically but made up for it through training and hard work.


Ronaldinho edges this one. Some of his displays of strength (and determination) in La Liga are truly amazing. Even in the Champions League, he had no problem holding off rough and dirty players like Gallas and Gattuso.

I remember Gattuso tackling the life out of C.Ronaldo, but even he could not handle Ronaldinho. He bamboozled Gattuso with his step overs on a number of occasions in the Champions League tie against AC Milan 3 otr 4 years back.

Obviously, now Ronaldinho is crap compared to his former self.


Ronaldinho kicks butt on this one. If C.Ronaldo was called quick in the premier league then Ronaldinho was probably lightning at his peak at Barcelona. Though, he had an arsenal of weapons at his disposal and avoided getting into a speed contest with defenders (he preferred to beat them with his superb first touch on most occasions) but when the situation called for it, he had his legs ready to do some work.

His two goals against Real Madrid should remind everyone of his speed. Credit should also be given to his ball control while running so fast with the ball.

Zidane whereas was never known as a speed daemon. He could run though.


Ronaldinho on this one too. Zidane, as I said was not gifted physically but more than that, he was happy to dribble past defenders rather than stop and start to change direction, that was more of Ronaldinho’s territory. Zidane was agile, yes, but Ronaldinho I think, because had the stronger legs of the two, could chop and change directions more quickly than Zidane.

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Zidane wins this one. His balance was the key trait which enabled him to overcome his shortcomings (when compared to other greats) in speed and moving quickly through defenders.

Rarely got knocked off the ball and could unleash outrageous shots from tight angles with the defenders going toe to toe with him. He was able to do that because of his balance. I still remember the way he humiliated Marquez in El Clasico where Marquez tried desperately to knock Zidane of the ball but Zidane through his balance rather than Strength was able to hold on to the ball.

Tactical Awareness:

Zidane on this one too. Ronaldinho was a bit instinctive in his play and liked to enjoy himself a lot rather than actually learn this skill but that is usually the way Brazillians are, they are extremely instinctive and trying to make them play in a organised manner like seasoned Italians rarely works.

Even if it does work (as I am sure Dunga would want to show), it just kills the brand of football Brazilians have brought to the whole world. Samba style.

Zidane was a bit more mature in his thinking than Ronaldinho. He gave a lot of thought to his passing and his movements. Always looked for holes in the opponents armor and tried to exploit that weakness. Ronaldinho on the other hand just like to dance around defenders, mesmerizing them before scoring a goal or making one for his teammate.


Zidane on this one too. As I said, Ronaldinho didn’t give much of a damn to the scientific side of football, he liked to play Ginga!!!!. Zidane has actually made many critics call him the scientist. His sense of the game was unmatched.


I think it is a tie. Both at their peaks had a keen sense of what was happening around them and could pick out outrageous passes. Zidane was I think more calculated and deceptive in everything he did on the field. Mere short passes to the back four which seemed totally useless to me had some sort of a purpose in Zidane’s mind, as subsequent moves at those moments showed.

Ronaldinho on the other hand, as I said. Won the tie against AC Milan with that magical ball to Guily in their Champions League match.


It is a tie too. Zidane was consistent with penalties all his life. Ronaldinho, though in pretty bad shape overall, is still a master at scoring from them.


Hah. Ronaldinho can sit down on this one. Zidane all the way man. He was the best player in the world for atleast 5 or 6 years though we won only 3 FIFA WORLD PLAYER OF THE YEAR awards but as well all know, these awards give heavy credit to how well does a team does rather than just the performance of the individual.

Ronaldinho on the other hand was at the top of the world for probably 2 years. 3 at the max and then slumped down drastically. Whereas Zidane, drop his level very little and actually it was the prominence of Ronaldo and Ronaldinho that made Zidane look a bit flat at age 31 and beyond.

So there you go. My detailed analysis of who is better between Zidane and Ronaldinho. If you ask me, in an ideal world, I would take Ronaldinho but if we consider all variables that one has to consider in the real world then Zidane for sure.

Photo by leafar.

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