Ronaldinho, "Andinho" and the best girls in Brazil

Ronaldinho has been less than spectacular so far this season, but he was on great form in the interview on Thursday.

Getting the tone right with a player is crucial. It’s professional to keep a distance. And there’s nothing worse than hearing 50-year-old journalists calling players half their age “mate”, but then if you interview the same players again and again you build up an understanding and trust as you would in any other occupation.

I first interviewed Ronaldinho when he arrived at Barca in 2003. I was granted a one on one with him at a golf club in northern Catalonia which Barca were using as a pre-season base. There were no other media present and he was relaxed as we sat on a terrace in the shadows of the lush Pyrenees.

It was impossible not to like him and subsequent meetings have done nothing to change my opinion of him. He considers himself a normal person who is decent at football. On each occasion he’s promised to speak in English “the next time.” But he never does.

And why should he? He asked how things were with me and I told him that my girlfriend was from close to his home city of Porto Alegre in Brazil. He started laughing. It’s like coming from Manchester and playing in Brazil, then getting interviewed by an Argentinian who tells you that his girlfriend is from Preston.

“How did you meet her?” he asked. “Has she made you churrasco? (Meat roasted over charcoal on wooden skewers.) I thought of saying – “No, but she’s had fish and chips in Fleetwood. In December.” What I actually said was, “She’s promised.”

“Have you listened to pagode?” (a sub genre of Samba popular in southern Brazil that he loves). I should have said, “Yes, and she’s been to see The Charlatans and Arctic Monkeys in concert,” but I just said “Yes. It’s very good.”

Ronaldinho was enjoying this conversation, as were his family, sitting close by.

“Does she play football?” Ronaldinho continued, “If you have a kid then he can play for Brazil!”

“We’ll call him Andinho,” I replied.

“Novo Hamburgo is renown for having the best girls in Brazil,” he went on.

“I’ve heard. No idea why she hooked up with a skinny big nosed Englishman.”

“You’ve got to go there. The food and the music are special. Does she have any friends?!”

We then started the interview, with him shaking his head in disbelief. I didn’t push my plan of getting him to play for Manchester La Fianna on Saturday in exchange for fixing him up.

It wasn’t that he was about to play in the match against Zaragoza where he scored a match-winning penalty, which pushed Barca within five points of Madrid; I just couldn’t see where I’d fit him into our new 4-2-3-1 system.

One of Manchester United’s chief scouts was in Barcelona on Saturday night, doubtless delighted after watching United, inspired by Anderson, another son of Porto Alegre, blitz Arsenal 4-0. But United were not the only team to win 4-0 in the cup.

Manchester La Fianna recorded probably the most significant win in our 18- month history. And while Ronaldinho, as everyone knows, has a great life story, wait until you hear the one about our man of the match…

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