Ronaldo de Assis, better known as Ronaldinho, was one of Leo Messi's closest friends when the Argentine progressed to the Barcelona first team. Their tight friendship was no secret and the Brazilian, now plying his trade with Atlético Mineiro, has remembered those years fondly in an interview with ESPN.
"For me Messi is the best in the world. For the last few years he has played a level of football we have never seen before. I'm very proud to speak of him, because I was there when he started off and now he is the best in the world, it makes me so happy."
Ronaldinho said the best three players in the world for him are Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and his compatriot Neymar.
"Cristiano has been making history for many years now, but Messi is the best in the world, and one day Neymar will be the best."
The Brazilian spent more than four years with Messi at Barcelona, and has one lasting memory of 'La Pulga'
"The game I remember the most is when he scored his first goal, because it came from my pass and I remember this game the most because he was just getting started and I had the chance to be there and live that moment. I'm very happy that his first professional goal came from a pass from me."
Ronaldinho remembers another Messi moment, when the Argentine was not even training with the first team.
'Dinho admitted that the two players do not speak very often, because the Brazilian "doesn't like to talk on the phone very much", but declared: "Messi knows that there will always be a place in my heart for him."