Interviews

Ronaldinho: "I was 48 hours from joining Man United... and then Sandro Rosell called"

Ronaldinho
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It was phenomenal in every way. Larsson brought a lot of experience. He was our 
12th player for a long time: the man that came off the bench to make a difference. 
We were confident from the start and we knew it would take patience to win.

How tough a decision was it to leave Barcelona? Is there any truth in the story that they felt you were a bad influence on a young Lionel Messi?
Shaun Robertson, via Facebook

It was easy – it was time to go. I wanted to follow in the footsteps of [Frank] Rijkaard, 
who was my coach and said great things about Milan. I had other options, but I wanted to play for Milan. As for that stuff about Messi, it’s not true; you shouldn’t always believe what you read. I always tried to be a good influence on him and actually try to do for him what Ronaldo did for me. I felt embraced by Ronaldo and I wanted Leo to have the same. Messi was always very shy, but always a fantastic player. We lived on the same street, so I had a great relationship with him and his family. Even then I knew he was a better player than me.

Who’s the best player you’ve played against?
Antoine, via email

It has to be [Paolo] Maldini. Too many skills. It's impossible not to be amazed by how he made it all look effortless, especially when you get to play with him.

Is the flip-flap/elastico your favourite piece of skill? When did you perfect it? Who’s more skilful: you or Ronaldo?
Pete Rogers, via email

That’s probably my favourite skill. It is something that comes with indoor football, but I adapted it to the pitch. My flip-flap is easier for me when I stretch my legs a little more. Rivelino [credited for inventing the move] had shorter legs, but still had 
amazing skills. I am pretty confident about my skills – they were perfected as time went by. I always liked to play with the ball. I have many difficulties with other things, but I am always at ease with a ball. Ronaldo is my hero. He was better than me. And he is the editor, too, so I can’t say anything he won’t like!

You were at Milan when they started to falter on the European stage. What was the reason for that? Was it just a case of the best players getting old?
Petey, Belfast

It's just a change in the generations at the club. They will soon be on top again. They have a fantastic infrastructure for players: there isn’t a single player who wouldn’t like to play there.

Who was the best manager you ever played under? Who got the best out of you?
Ilsa Manzer, via Twitter

Rijkaard, no doubt. He's one of the best in the world and he deserves to be with a top team. He will soon be coaching a national team, I think, fighting for a World Cup title. He always got the best out of me because I knew he knew what I needed. His experience on the pitch counts for every player he coaches.

CLUB HONOURS

  • Campeonato Gaucho 1999; Copa do Brazil 2001; La Liga 2005, 2006; Champions League 2006; Serie A 2011; Campeonato Carioca 2011; Campeonato Mineiro 2013; Copa Libertadores 2013

What was your reaction when you found out somebody wanted to name a new species of bee after you? Did you think hard about what you wanted it to be called? Why the number 49 instead of your name?!
Terry Franks, Middlesbrough

I was shocked! I found it curious, but I didn’t buy the idea that they wanted to name the bee after me just because they think I am nice. It may have been more for publicity. So I got the idea to name the bees after the number 49 as a tribute to my mother, who was born in the year 1949. She has had some difficult times with her health recently, but is now improving.


You left Milan when you’d just topped the assists league in Serie A. Why did you go? Did you want more playing time?
Josh Smith, Leamington Spa

I wanted to come back to Brazil to live in Rio. I didn’t want to come back just to retire – I wanted to make an impact. And Flamengo had a good plan for me. That was key for me. That’s why I didn’t go straight to Gremio, my boyhood team. That time hasn’t come yet.

Did you ever feel like not winning the Copa Libertadores was a hole in your CV? How important was it to you to win it with Atletico Mineiro last year, and was it extra special because you had to make dramatic comebacks in the quarters, semi and final?
Gill Underwood, Colchester

No doubt. Winning at Atletico was one of the greatest things of my career. They hadn’t won any great trophies since 1971 and never lifted the Libertadores before, so you must see how these passionate fans deserve this. We had a thrilling competition, which adds to the excitement of winning, of course. Now I need to win the Brazilian championship, which I have always wanted to. Then my CV will be complete.

Imagine, Ronnie: your house is on fire and you only have time to save one winner’s medal. Is it the 2002 World Cup, the 2006 Champions League or the 2013 Copa Libertadores?
Ant Cole, via email

What a terrible idea! Well, I think they are all important when you win them. Of course the World Cup means more, but it basically depends on which is closer to the door or window so I can escape unharmed. If they’re all close I’ll try to grab them all.

Apart from current club Atletico Mineiro, which fans do you remember the most fondly from your career?
Felipe Fernandes, via Twitter

I always played for teams with hardcore fans. Gremio was special because it was the first one: I played there from age seven and I could still go and see them on the stands as a supporter. Brazilians are all nuts about football – the pressure is enormous. In France they are wild, too. PSG fans are really loud. At Barcelona they were so tense because it had been a long time since they last lifted the Champions League. And at Milan the show off the pitch and in the stands is just as great as it is on it. I can’t possibly choose.

Would Neymar have got into your 2002 World Cup-winning side?
Barry Moore, via Facebook

It’s difficult to say. Great players always have room in the team, and Neymar is one of them. But there were more great players in 2002. I think Scolari would have to answer that one.

Did you think you had a chance of making it into the World Cup squad this year? Was it more disappointing to miss out on playing in a World Cup at home or in 2010?
Martin Galmer, Dallas, USA

Not this time. In 2010 I thought I had a chance. I was living a great moment then. 
But Dunga didn’t want me there. This year it could have happened; I am more experienced now. Too bad it never happened...

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