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Why did Ronaldinho go to prison? Former Barcelona and Brazil star's incarceration explained

09:29 BST 08/04/2020
Ronaldinho 2018
He is one of the most instantly recognisable faces in football, but the Brazilian found himself locked up and having kickabouts with criminals

Ronaldinho is widely accepted as one of the best footballers to have ever played the game, having lit up pitches across the world in the colours of Barcelona, Brazil and AC Milan, among others.

However, despite scaling the heights of football and enjoying all of the associated riches, his personal situation has deteriorated rapidly in the past year and he found himself behind bars in a Paraguayan prison in March.

He spent 32 days inside before being released on bail.

So why was Ronaldinho in prison? Goal takes a look at the reasons behind the Brazilian's imprisonment.

Why did Ronaldinho go to prison?

Ronaldinho was detained in a prison in Paraguay for the alleged use of a fake Paraguayan passport. He was being held in the country's maximum security Agrupacion Especializada prison.

The World Cup winner was arrested along with his brother Roberto at the beginning of March on his arrival to Asuncion, Paraguay's capital city. Both were subsequently imprisoned.

A statement from Paraguay's Ministry of the Interior explained: "The Attorney General's office issued a warrant for their arrest, charged the player Ronaldinho with using a public document with false content, and requested preventative detention."

Ronaldinho, whose Brazilian and Spanish passports had already been seized by Brazil's authorities in 2019 relating to separate legal issues, claimed that the Paraguayan passport was given to him as a gift from a local sponsor.

He says that he had made an innocent mistake in using it, maintaining that he was not aware of the wrongdoing. 

That line of argument was also expressed by the star's legal counsel, who went further by somewhat cuttingly describing his client as "an idiot".

However, Paraguayan authorities have not agreed with their of analysis of the situation, hence his incarceration.

He is now serving the time in the same penitentiary as convicted murderers, thieves and other high-security inmates, though is being kept in a different part of the facility.

Did Ronaldinho play football in prison?

Despite the ill-fated scenario Ronaldinho finds himself in, he has still been making headlines for his football powers, having taken part in a number of games within the prison.

Most notably, the man who won the Ballon d'Or in 2005 was hailed for his prowess during an exhibition futsal match and revelled along with prisoners who won themselves the prize of a suckling pig for dinner.

Photos and video footage emerged from behind the confines of the prison walls showing Ronaldinho taking part in the games, with his trademark smile evident.

So, while he was being held in a part of the prison the Paraguayan Minister of the Interior Euclides Acevedo described as being "almost a hotel", he shared the prison yard with everyone.

Behind the whimsical nature of the real-life 'Mean Machine' story, though, the brutal fact is that he was locked in a prison and his freedom was taken away from him, so it is not all sunshine and rainbows.

Indeed, former Paraguay international Nelson Cuevas has suggested that his friend "lost" his smile.

“Ronaldinho is not happy at all," Cuevas told CNN Radio. "What distinguishes him is his smile, his good energy, his way of being but today, due to the situation he is going through, that smile is lost because he is in prison which is a place he is not accustomed to.”

When was Ronaldinho released from prison?

Ronaldinho and his brother were released from Agrupacion Especializada on April 7 and placed under house arrest in a hotel after paying $1.6 million (£1.3m) bail. 

The Brazil icon had spent 32 days behind bars in the maximum security complex and will now wait at the hotel for the day of his trial.

Before that Ronaldinho's bail application was denied because authorities deemed him to be a flight risk.

Reports suggested that the former Barcelona attacker faced up to six months inside before his trial, but it appears that he will serve that time in an Asuncion hotel now instead.