Spain – “The Ronaldinho Method” of Pickpocketing

Thieves soliciting passersby on the popular Ramblas in Barcelona, Spain use a sports icon’s name to define their skill


Interesting how life imitates art – this time pickpockets are taking on the actions of one of the world’s best know soccer stars in Spain.

It appears that a new pickpocket trend is rearing its head in Barcelona,Spain.  Pickpockets are starting to use a new to replace older “classic” pickpocketing techniques with polite conversation and “friendliness” to fleece their victims.  The pickpockets have several variations of this scam, but in a nutshell they approach you, pretends to be a ‘friend’  that has not seen you for a long time, them quickly embraces you in a jubilant, but clinging hug.  Obviously, it the “victim” was a man, the thief would remove his wallet, or if a woman, her wallet would be removed from her purse.

As reported on the popular continental website,, this new form of crime has several variations.  Another version is where the pickpockets engage tourists in polite conversation then break out in a friendly hug to the victim.  During the hug, the pickpocket’s colleagues remove your valuables from your pocket or purse.  Law enforcement has dubbed this pickpocket method as “doing a Ronaldinho”, “the Ronaldinho“, or “the pickpocket committed a Ronaldinho.”  The origin of the term comes from the comparison between the modus operandi of pickpocket groups who use this technique and the manner in which one of the world’s most celebrated soccer stars celebrates the goals he makes.  Soccer star Ronaldinho is known for his exuberant manner which he does when he makes a soccer goal.  His cheerful toothy smile and the way he enthusiastically hugs his teammates is known world-wide. This unusual way to pickpocket victims appears to be successful because there is no violence, intimidation, or typical bump distraction that travelers are taught to be on the lookout for. This type of pickpocket scam has been reported several times by distracted tourists who stroll through the center of the Catalan capital, in the district of Ciutat Vella.