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. ItÃ¢ÂÂs professional to keep a distance. And thereÃ¢ÂÂs nothing worse than hearing 50-year-old journalists calling players half their age Ã¢ÂÂmateÃ¢ÂÂ, 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 heÃ¢ÂÂs promised to speak in English Ã¢ÂÂthe next time.Ã¢ÂÂ 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. ItÃ¢ÂÂs like coming from Manchester and playing in Brazil, then getting interviewed by an Argentinian who tells you that his girlfriend is from Preston.
Ã¢ÂÂHow did you meet her?Ã¢ÂÂ he asked. Ã¢ÂÂHas she made you churrasco? (Meat roasted over charcoal on wooden skewers.) I thought of saying Ã¢ÂÂ Ã¢ÂÂNo, but sheÃ¢ÂÂs had fish and chips in Fleetwood. In December.Ã¢ÂÂ What I actually said was, Ã¢ÂÂSheÃ¢ÂÂs promised.Ã¢ÂÂ
Ã¢ÂÂHave you listened to pagode?Ã¢ÂÂ (a sub genre of Samba popular in southern Brazil that he loves). I should have said, Ã¢ÂÂYes, and sheÃ¢ÂÂs been to see The Charlatans and Arctic Monkeys in concert,Ã¢ÂÂ but I just said Ã¢ÂÂYes. ItÃ¢ÂÂs very good.Ã¢ÂÂ
Ronaldinho was enjoying this conversation, as were his family, sitting close by.
Ã¢ÂÂDoes she play football?Ã¢ÂÂ Ronaldinho continued, Ã¢ÂÂIf you have a kid then he can play for Brazil!Ã¢ÂÂ
Ã¢ÂÂWeÃ¢ÂÂll call him Andinho,Ã¢ÂÂ I replied.
Ã¢ÂÂNovo Hamburgo is renown for having the best girls in Brazil,Ã¢ÂÂ he went on.
Ã¢ÂÂIÃ¢ÂÂve heard. No idea why she hooked up with a skinny big nosed Englishman.Ã¢ÂÂ
Ã¢ÂÂYouÃ¢ÂÂve got to go there. The food and the music are special. Does she have any friends?!Ã¢ÂÂ
We then started the interview, with him shaking his head in disbelief. I didnÃ¢ÂÂt push my plan of getting him to play for Manchester La Fianna on Saturday in exchange for fixing him up.
It wasnÃ¢ÂÂt 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 couldnÃ¢ÂÂt see where IÃ¢ÂÂd fit him into our new 4-2-3-1 system.
One of Manchester UnitedÃ¢ÂÂs 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 matchÃ¢ÂÂ¦