Lionel Messi has reflected on the influence Ronaldinho had on his early career at Barcelona and on the gratitude he also has for Frank Rijkaard.
The 26-year-old’s early years at the Camp Nou came alongside the Brazilian No 10 and the duo developed a close bond off the pitch.
“I’ve always said that from the first moment I entered the changing room, Ronaldinho and the rest of the Brazilians – Deco, Sylvinho and Motta- welcomed me and made things easier for me,” Messi reflected in an interview with Barca TV.
“But above all, him (Ronaldinho), because he was the star of the team. I learned a lot by his side.
“He was a great help. It’s never easy to go into a changing room at the age of 16 especially with my character.
“Ronaldinho made everything much easier for me. I had the good luck to experience him at first hand and to share many things with him.
“I can say that he’s a really great person and that’s the most important thing.
“Ronaldinho was responsible for the change in Barca. It was a bad time and the change that came about with his arrival was amazing.
“In the first year, he didn’t win anything but people fell in love with him.
“Then the trophies started coming and he made all those people happy. Barca should always be grateful for everything he did.”
Barcelona then were playing under Frank Rijkaard’s direction.
“Sometimes I didn’t understand why I hadn’t been picked or why I wasn’t playing. Now I look at it coldly, I think that he treated me really well, without any hurry.
“I’m very grateful to Rijkaard because he knew what was best for me at every moment. That’s why I’ll always be grateful to him and all the coaching staff.”
The Argentine admitted that not overly celebrating the 2006 Champions League Final win is one regret he still has today.
“I was recovering from injury and I didn’t make the final. I was very young and I didn’t want to celebrate it.
“Then Ronaldinho, Deco and Motta brought me the trophy so I could celebrate and that’s a really good memory. Now I regret not enjoying myself more on the pitch, though I did afterwards.”