'Leo has everything, he didn't need anything from me' – Ronaldinho on Lionel Messi
Barcelona and Brazil icon Ronaldinho has revealed how members of the Nou Camp squad told coach Frank Rijkaard to let Lionel Messi train with the senior side for the first time.
Ronaldinho scooped the ball over a defender before watching Messi - then a 17-year-old - score the first of his 619 goals for Barcelona with a typically brilliant lob before leaping onto his teammate’s back in the closing minutes of a home win over Albacete in 2005.
Messi would replace Ronaldinho as Barca’s creative catalyst three seasons later, with club president Joan Laporta’s assertion that the 28-year-old needed “a new challenge” fuelling rumours that his flamboyant lifestyle risked negatively influencing the man who would become the club’s greatest ever goalscorer.
Ronaldinho turned down Manchester City to join an AC Milan side that would contain the likes of David Beckham and Kaka for around $33 million but has insisted that his memories with the La Liga champions are “all a joy” and claimed Messi “didn’t need anything from me.”Also on rt.com ‘It’s annoying that Messi has more Ballon d’Or awards than Ronaldo,’ says Juventus boss Sarri
“He arrived being different to all the others and we spoke to Rijkaard so that he came to train with us,” Ronaldinho told Panenka Magazine.
“It was all very fast. We started playing together and we got on very well.
“We were always very close. We learned things - he taught me Spanish and I taught him Portuguese, but with the ball we understood each other perfectly.”
“I was lucky enough to give him the pass for his first goal. Over time, it's very nice to see someone who starts out so close [to you] and then conquers the world.”
Ronaldinho scored his first goal for the club in 2003 after Barca had beaten Manchester United to his signature as their flagship signing, and the striker who scored 94 times for the Blaugrana has suggested Messi was only impressionable on the pitch.
“I'd be left amazed by how calm he is,” Ronaldinho reflected. "That's something I love about him; he never gets into trouble.
“He's always with his family and those closest to him. Leo has everything – he didn't need anything from me."
Messi has previously credited Ronaldinho with transforming Barcelona, once telling the club’s official website: “Ronaldinho was responsible for the change in Barça.
“It was a bad time and the change that came about with his arrival was amazing. People fell in love with him. Barca should always be grateful for everything he did.”
There has been talk of a farewell match at Barca later this year for Ronaldinho. “From the first game, it was all a joy," he reminisced, calling Rijkaard “a great coach - a very quiet guy, the best I've ever worked with.
“He knew everything because he played at the highest level and that made things easy for us.
“Everything he asked us to do, he has already done it before, so he spoke to us in a very simple and direct way.
“He gave me a lot of freedom to play my football. When we didn't have the ball, we also had to fulfil our obligations. But when we had it, he made me feel completely free."
“There are a lot of memories. I think I arrived with thousands of people waiting for me in the stadium.”
Barcelona and Messi return to action on Sunday when they welcome Grenada in La Liga.