Dubai: Ronaldinho admitted during a visit to Dubai on Saturday that the only regret from his career was not playing more games alongside Lionel Messi at Barcelona.
Pep Guardiola ruthlessly axed the Brazilian 2002 World Cup winner and two-time World Player of the Year as soon as he took charge of Barcelona in 2008.
Guardiola feared Ronaldinho’s hard-partying ways were not only taking their toll on the playmaker, but also setting a bad example on a young and impressionable Messi.
The decision paid off for Guardiola as Messi and Barcelona went on to become one of the greatest sides in European history, but at the same time Ronaldinho’s career went in the opposite direction after joining AC Milan.
Despite being still regarded as one of the greatest players in football history the question will always remain if Ronaldinho could have achieved more if he had been more self-disciplined?
“I’ve achieved everything I wanted to and I’m grateful for that,” said the 36-year-old on the sidelines of a visit to his self-titled soccer academy in the Koora Dome at Al Wasl Club on Saturday.
“Of course, I would have loved to have played more with Messi, he’s a great player and I’m very glad to have helped him at the beginning of his career with the assistance of his first goal.
“Having seen him go on to become such a great player, it would have been great to have played more with him, but at that time my period at Barca was over and it was time for me to move to achieve new things and set new objectives, so the time had come for me to leave.”
Asked if he regretted having to leave the Nou Camp or the manner in which it happened, he replied: “No, not at all.” And whether his reputation as a party animal had been unfair or unfounded, he laughed, looked at the translator then looked back at this reporter and said with a wry grin and matter of fact tone: “No”, in a manner that only drew more laughter from reporters.
On the whole, he said he bore no grudge against Guardiola, who is now coach of Abu Dhabi-owned Manchester City.
“Pep is not only a great coach but also a great friend, he has all the capabilities of leading Man City and I truly hope he succeeds there.”
He also said Messi could still win an elusive World Cup with Argentina despite threatening international retirement.
“Messi is a great player and the Argentina national team is a great team, I believe they have a real chance of winning the next World Cup.”
But he added Messi didn’t have to win the World Cup to be considered a great player.
“He demonstrates that he’s the best every day. Week-in-week-out he keeps playing at such a level that demonstrates how good he really is, so there’s no real need for him to show anymore at the World Cup. But as my friend I always wish him the best as I do all of my friends.”
The questions then turned to another Barcelona player - this time Ronaldinho’s compatriot Neymar, and whether he could lead Brazil’s revival.
“Neymar is today unquestionably our biggest star and for sure his name is already in Brazilian history.
“He’s comparable to every other guy who’s ever played for Brazil that’s for sure.
“Brazilian football is in transition and winning an Olympic gold at home was good for confidence. I now believe Neymar has all the capabilities of leading this team and I believe Brazil have a good chance of winning the next World Cup.”