Ronaldinho Gaucho

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Ronaldinho and tiffs with brothers help Messi bed in

Lionel Messi has Ronaldinho and some rough competition from his brothers to thank for a seamless move into big time soccer.

The teenaged Argentina forward was taken under his wing by Ronaldinho as soon as he broke into Barcelona's first team squad, gaining from the confidence shown in him by the great Brazilian.

He also learnt from an early age that he did not like losing in fierce kickabouts with brothers Matias and Maxi in which he did not always come out on top.

By the time Messi played at Chelsea in the Champions League last month, he was hardened enough to shrug off the foul by defender Asier del Horno and the controversy surrounding his own reaction and the Spaniard's red card to go on and help Barcelona win 2-1.

"I remember at Stamford Bridge all the guys were coming up to me at halftime in the dressing room really worried about me, but I was able to say, 'don't worry, no problem, I'm fine, let's just get on with beating them'," Messi said.

"Ever since I was a kid I've hated to lose. If I played with my brothers Matias and Maxi we'd always end up fighting about something. If I lost they'd tease me and punch me until I cried," he said in an interview in Champions Magazine.

"It's the kind of thing that happens among brothers in a family but they taught me to hate losing," he added in the issue of the magazine being published this week.

"Something deep in my character allows me to take the hits and get on with trying to win," said Messi, who played little part in the second leg of the last-16 tie against Chelsea after pulling a muscle early in the game at the Nou Camp. A 1-1 draw gave Barcelona the tie 3-2 on aggregate.

"I've always had this ability to get up and get on with it. Long ago I made up my mind that the fact that people try to kick you and foul you comes with the territory if you play the way I do," the 18-year-old said.


"Usually the attacks are not malicious. But if they are malicious, you do have to protest a bit. At the start of a match when you are not properly warmed up it hurts a bit more. But by the time the game is in full flow, you're concentrating so deeply on winning, most times you barely notice what has happened."

Messi has been compared with Diego Maradona, even by Argentina's 1986 World Cup-winning captain himself, and said he was moved to tears when he received a phone call from him after helping his country win the World Youth Cup in the Netherlands last year.

"I want to avoid comparisons because for me there has never been anyone quite like him," Messi said.

Messi plays alongside another brilliant player in Ronaldinho who forgot about the traditional rivalry between Brazilians and Argentines to befriend Messi.

"Ronnie was massively important for me," Messi said. "I was so young when I started to come into Barcelona's dressing room, but he made a point of being first to step up to me and look after me.

"I try to copy little things Ronaldinho does but more fundamentally I just try to play for the joy of it. Playing football has always meant joy for me and that's why I do it. Of course, it's easier when you're winning."


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