Ronaldinho, the smiling legend, received the MARCA Legend award — a distinction reserved for the greatest — from the media outlet’s director, Juan Ignacio Gallardo, on Thursday. The Brazilian answered a few questions and recalled when he introduced Lionel Messi to the late, great Kobe Bryant.
Messi, 35, is coming off a FIFA World Cup championship victory with Argentina, and his first career goal for FC Barcelona was assisted by Ronaldinho himself.
Ronaldinho, who became sort of a godfather figure for Messi in the sport — though the Brazilian prefers to call it a friendship — introduced the young star to Bryant before he became the best soccer player in the world.
“It was normal,” Ronaldinho said. “I told him about Messi’s quality. I didn’t just talk about Messi. I spoke of all my teammtes. I just said he had a great future ahead of him.”
Ronaldinho joins Alfredo Di Stefano, Pele, Diego Maradona, Johan Cruyff, Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane, Paolo Maldini, Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as some who have received the newspaper’s most-prestigious award.
Marca Sport Weekend in Malaga
The Brazilian was the main attraction at the gala presentation of the Marca Sport Weekend at the Automobile and Fashion Museum in Malaga.
Everyone wanted an autograph, a picture, or a handshake. The soccer legend received a standing ovation while accompanied by athletes such as Jorge Lorenzo, Saul Cravioto, Luis Escola, Pablo Laso and other Spanish sports stars..
Ronaldinho arrived at the gala after 10 o’clock at night with a group of friends and family.
“I want to thank everyone,” Ronaldinho said. “It is a great pleasure to be here for the affection they have always given me.”
Ronaldinho speaks of other Brazilian legends
Ronaldinho was relaxed onstage and spoke of other Brazilians such as Pele and Ronaldo.
“Pele was the greatest, the king, all Brazilians who love soccer and those who are not Brazilian,” Ronaldingo said. “It is impossible not to like Pele. To be next to the other Brazilians who have received this award is a source of pride.”
The arrival of Ronaldinho was a huge event for the city of Malaga. Hundreds of fans waited for the Brazilian star at the airport and his hotel room.
Ronaldinho also touched on Messi’s future, saying it would be nice if he finished his playing career with Barcelona.
Ronaldinho wants to Messi retire in Barcelona
“I’m a friend of Messi’s,” Ronaldinho said. “I’m very happy for him. It’s very joyful to see friends conquering dreams. Tthat makes me happy. I am his friend. For me, Messi is the best.
“I would like to see him happy, I don’t care where he is. After all the history he has had with Barcelona, it would be nice if he could finish his career there.”
MARCA had not yet been able to recognize Ronaldinho for his career, but he deserves the award for two reasons: his list of honors and representing the joy of soccer.
Ronaldinho won the 2002 FIFA World Cup with Brazil, the 2006 UEFA Champions League with Barcelona and the 2005 Ballon d’Or, making him among the greatest to ever play the beautiful game.