Former Brazilian great Ronaldinho feels that Lionel Messi has been the perfect senior to Neymar at Barcelona, exactly the role played by him when the Argentine stalwart joined the first team of the Catalan giants more than a decade ago.
“I think so. When Messi came in, he was a young kid and there was so much potential in him. I thoroughly enjoyed playing with him and we did share a great rapport on the field and off it too. I am delighted to see that Messi is doing to Neymar what I did to him when he came to Barcelona. That is what senior players in the team are expected to do,” Ronaldinho, who has come to India to take part in the Premier Futsal tournament, told reporters.
It is not common for Barcelona teams to get a standing ovation at Santiago Bernabeu but Ronaldinho experienced that heady feeling in November 2005 after Barcelona blanked Real Madrid 3-0 in an ‘El Clasico’ game. It was only the second time that a Barcelona player had got such an ovation from Bernabeu crowd after Diego Maradona in the early 80s.
“It was awesome. The gesture was amazing. To experience that being a opposition player, was once in a lifetime moment,” Ronaldonho, who scored 70 goals in 145 appearances for Barcelona, fondly recollected.
Ronaldinho is hopeful that the young Brazilian team with Neymar as their mainstay will do well at the Rio Olympics.
“It is a balanced squad. Brazil has had and will continue to have a lot of talented players. The only significant difference that I see in the past and now, is that the national teams get very little time together and they play so rarely for them to play to the best of their abilities.
“You need to understand the other persons game to be able to compliment and become that combination. With so much club football, there is very little time that national teams get together.”
While speaking to Ronaldinho, it is only obvious that his famous free-kick from the wide right during 2002 Fifa World Cup match against England will come up for discussion.
“We were very well prepared for that England game. We saw a lot of videos and we had spotted those weaknesses in the English team. We had studied them well and I knew (David) Seaman liked to step forward for free-kicks.
“Then what happened was natural. That is something you are expected to do as players at the highest level, exploit weaknesses of the opposition.”