Once upon a time, Lionel Messi and Ronaldinho were teammates at Barcelona in a fairytale duo that not even the most creative storytellers in the world would be able to write with a straight face.
Fans who followed Barcelona between 2003 and 2008 had the privilege of watching Ronaldinho, at the peak of his powers, keep the Barcelona number 10 jersey warm for Lionel Messi. 'Dinho was the jewel in Barcelona's crown at the time, Messi the precociously talented successor to his throne. Barcelona has been treated to plenty of great South American talents in the past. Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima, aka Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Romario and Diego Maradona himself have all dazzled fans at the Camp Nou, Ronaldinho was the greatest entertainer they'd ever seen and Messi, well, he's probably the greatest that ever played the beautiful game.
Two years after arriving at Barcelona and three years after winning the World Cup with Brazil, Ronaldinho was awarded the 2005 Ballon d'Or award, and here's what he said right afterwards:
“This award says I’m the best player in the world, but I’m not even the best player at Barcelona,"
“Leo Messi reminds me more of Maradona, both left-footed and short, Messi is the best player in the world, along with Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo.
"For us it is not a surprise. Since he began to come and train with us and we knew we would go down this path. Someday I will explain that I was at the birth of one of the footballing greats: Leo Messi."
16 January is a date that both players hold dear. On 16 January 2010, Messi scored his 100th goal for Barcelona, in a match against Sevilla. He's since gone on to score 519 more, taking his tally to 619 in the famous Barcelona colours, and still counting. On that same day eight years later in 2018, Ronaldinho called time on his illustrious football career.
Both of these brilliant South Americans will go down in Barcelona folklore and the history books of world football alike.
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