Here’s a story you may have heard. Ronaldinho called up Andrés Iniesta before a match against Real Madrid to tell him, shockingly, that he would be moving to their rivals the very next season. He asked Iniesta not to tell anyone this revelation and hung up quickly. The next day, Dinho got all the Barcelona players together to tell them he had called all of them individually to say he was moving to Real Madrid and not to tell anyone else. Only he was not going to go to Madrid, it was in fact a test. And having seen that no player leaked the information, he knew he could trust every player in the squad and thus, that they would teach los blancos a lesson. The game would end with Ronaldinho and Barça cruising to a victory in el clásico.
It’s a great story, only there’s a problem. It’s totally fake.
Yet, you can still see reputable outlets such as ESPN publishing it as if it were fact:
16 years ago today, Barcelona signed Ronaldinho. Any excuse to enjoy this story by Andres Iniesta again... pic.twitter.com/nD1JLpP3YJ— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) July 19, 2019
The story is said to have come from Iniesta’s autobiography, but the English translator of the book, Sid Lowe, confirms there is no trace of it there.
What’s more, Ronaldinho himself denies the story, speaking to FourFourTwo magazine:
“I don’t remember that,” Ronnie says, and indeed the writer who produced the English translation of Iniesta’s autobiography had previously confirmed that, sadly, no such story was in the book. The tale wasn’t true. “But it is true that I was always a prankster,” Ronaldinho adds.
“I would often do things to motivate my team-mates in the dressing room, especially against Real Madrid. I had to, because that’s a game that put on the pitch all of the best players in the world, and many of the best in history. I remember one goal I scored from a free-kick – in their wall they had Luis Figo, Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo, David Beckham… Playing in the Clasico, you needed a bit of stress relief.”
The story seems to have picked up steam in September 2016, when The Daily Mail, The Daily Mirror, and The Independent published articles on it. Before that, Bleacher Report boosted the story by publishing it on Twitter, crediting a user named Mohamed Moallim.
Moallim himself deleted his original tweet. It’s not known where he got the story from. Regardless, despite the fact that you may see it everywhere from many sites, the story is fake.