Ronaldinho reveals the exact moment he knew he had to make it as a professional footballer
Ronaldinho has never been much like other top footballers.
It is a cliché to point out that the Brazilian always played with a smile on his face, but there is no doubt that he made football fun in ways that other elite players have struggled to do.
Whether he was tearing it up for Barcelona in the Champions League or winding down his career with the likes of Querétaro and Fluminense, it has always felt as though his priority was bringing smiles to the faces of those who watched him play - anything more was a bonus.
And now, in a wide-reaching personal essay for The Players' Tribune, the 36-year-old has shed some light on the moment he knew he had no choice but to make football his life, and to reach the upper echelons of the sport.
Entitled 'Letter to My Younger Self', the essay addresses the untimely death of Ronaldinho's father and the years he spent coming through at Grêmio as his elder brother embarked on a professional career.
And one of the most telling aspects of the piece concerns the 1994 World Cup, and the Brazilian victory that convinced a then-teenage Ronaldinho that this was his future.
'During the crazy celebration, it’s going to become clear to you what you want to do for the rest of your life,' he writes.
'You’re going to finally realize what football means to Brazilians. You’re going to feel the power of this sport.
'Most importantly, you will see the happiness that football can bring to regular people.
'“I’m going to play for Brazil,” you’ll tell yourself that day.'
Ronaldinho eventually won 97 caps for his country - the first coming as a 19-year-old against Latvia in 1999 - and was part of the team that won the 2002 World Cup.
He writes of his idols who 'played the game beautifully', including compatriot Ronaldo, Argentina's Diego Maradona, and Dener - the prodigious Brazilian who died in a car crash aged just 23.
'Creativity will take you further than calculation,' Ronaldinho tells his younger self.
'Think about what Dad said, to play free and to just play with the ball. Play with joy.
'This is something that many coaches will not understand, but when you are on the pitch, you will never calculate.
'Everything will come naturally. Before you have time to think, your feet have already made a decision.'
Ronaldinho ended his career with two La Liga titles, one Italian Serie A triumph, Champions League and Copa Libertadores titles and the 2005 Ballon d'Or, as well as countless more international and domestic Brazilian honours.
But he acknowledges his achievements will go far beyond what he accomplishes on the pitch.
'The only advice I have to give you is this: Do it your way,' he writes.
'Be free. Hear the music. This is the only way for you to live your life.'
You can read the full essay here.