MILAN - Ronaldinho credited the feeling of being loved for his return to form this season after a hat-trick in Sunday's 4-0 win over 10-man Siena set up a tasty derby against leaders Inter Milan next weekend.
The Brazilian is having his best spell in four years and his confidence is growing by the game, just like his famous smile.
"I feel loved and I am happy. I go on the field upbeat and because of that everything goes well," he told Sky television.
The 29-year-old is not quite at the level where he won two world player of the year awards with Barcelona in 2004 and 2005 yet in many ways he has evolved into a different footballer.
A yard of pace has gone and a dropped shoulder no longer gets him out of trouble while passes go astray more often.
On the other hand, he looks more clinical in front of goal as proved by the 12th minute penalty which opened the scoring and the header from a David Beckham corner in the second half.
Some touches of old remain though and he was unlucky when a bicycle kick went over only to be rewarded with the match ball a minute from time for a superb shot from just outside the box.
"We must forget this talk of him being reborn, he was reborn some time ago," Milan coach and compatriot Leonardo told Rai.
Milan have a game in hand and lie just six points behind Inter, making next Sunday's San Siro clash extra special.
After a blundering start to the season under rookie Leonardo, fans lamented the loss of Carlo Ancelotti to Chelsea.
All that has changed thanks to an expansive 4-3-3 formation which Leonardo eventually settled on, giving Ronaldinho the freedom to roam on the left of a dangerous front three.
Beckham is filling in well on the right while Alexandre Pato is injured and in-form main striker Marco Borriello is keeping Filippo Inzaghi and Klaas Jan Huntelaar firmly on the bench.
"This is the force of a team that knows that every match is important and an opportunity to improve," added Leonardo, who would become the first coach to win the scudetto in his first season as a manager.
"I think the derby arrives at a great moment for the championship. I think it'll be an extraordinary game."
The coach also reckoned his central defensive pair of Thiago Silva and Alessandro Nesta were best in Serie A and was confident the injury-plagued Nesta would be fit for Sunday.
"We talk about our attack and balance, but they give us great security. Nesta felt a little something, lets hope it is nothing," he said.