The who’s who of football rose in unison to pay tribute to Ronaldinho, who announced his retirement from the sport on Wednesday, and two of the game’s biggest stars—Lionel Messi and Neymar— led the tributes for the toothy 37-year-old.
Messi, who enjoyed his breakthrough at Barcelona at a time when Ronaldinho was in his prime, posted:
Como siempre dije, aprendí mucho a tu lado. Siempre te estaré agradecido por lo fácil que me hiciste todo cuando llegué al vestuario. Tuve la suerte compartir muchas cosas con vos y me alegro muchísimo porque, además de un fenómeno con la pelota, sos una grandísima persona y eso es lo más importante. Aunque decidas irte, el fútbol no se olvidará de tu sonrisa jamás. Todo lo mejor, Ronnie.
The diminutive Argentine, widely regarded as one of the best footballers of all-time, has repeatedly stated the Ronaldnho’s influence, especially in his teens, helped make him the player he is today.
Messi’s post, when translated, reads:
“Like I always said, I learned a lot by your side. I’ll always be grateful for how easy you made it when I got to the locker room. I was happy to share many things wit you and I am very happy because, besides a phenomenon with the ball, you are a great person and that is most important.
Even if you decide to leave, football will never forget your smile. All the best, Ronnie.”
Neymar never had the pleasure of playing alongside Ronaldinho at the club level but he did play against him while he was at Santos and the toothy superstar carer was closing out his career at Brazilian side Atleticio Mineiro. The duo played together briefly for the Brazilian national side and despite not having been team-mates for long, Ronaldinho clearly left an indelible mark on the PSG superstar as he posted:
The 25-year-old Neymar’s post, when translated, reads:
“What an honour to be part of your story. I will always remember your joy on the field, you left a legacy that will be hard to beat in footballing art… thanks for everything you did for football lovers.”