Ronaldinho claims it is “just a matter of time” before Neymar wins the Ballon d’Or.
The 36-year-old former Brazil and Barcelona magician says it is inevitable countryman and Blaugrana poster boy Neymar will one day claim football’s top individual accolade – although he denied that he needs the award in order to consider himself in the same class as current incumbent Cristiano Ronaldo and record five-time winner Lionel Messi.
Ronaldinho is in Dubai this week and spoke to journalists Wednesday after announcing a deal to expand the reach of his Ronaldinho Soccer Academy (RSA) network in the Middle East in partnership with Duplays.
“Neymar is a good friend. He’s Brazil’s greatest idol today,” said Ronaldinho, who won the Ballon d’Or in 2005.
Kaka, was the last player other than Ronaldo or Messi to win the award, in 2007. Since then it has become a Ronaldo/Messi duopoly – between them the pair have lifted the last nine trophies.
“I truly hope that one day he will get the Ballon d’Or,” added the 97-cap Ronaldinho, who socred 33 times for La Selecao.
“He’s already got lots of success but he’s already among the top, he’s already at the same level as those players, like Ronaldo and Messi. and it’s only a matter of time before he wins the Ballon d’Or.”
Ronaldinho played for Paris Saint-Germain before being plucked by Barca in 2003, spending five glorious years at the Camp Nou. And he said Barca’s magnificent Champions League last 16 comeback against the French side last week was “historical”.
“First of all it was a privilege to play for both clubs,” he said.
“I cannot say if it was the biggest comeback in football but it was the most memorable. It was a special and different one. It was historical.”
Despite a successful spell in charge of the Catalans, Luis Enrique has announced he will step down as manager at the end of the season, and Ronaldinho would not be drawn on who should replace his former team-mate.
“That’s not for me to say,” he said before adding he would not be throwing his own hat into the ring. “No, no. That’s not for me, man.”
During his days entertaining fans of Barca and football alike, Ronaldinho won three major titles at the Camp Nou, including the 2005/06 Champions League and back-to-back La Liga titles in 2004/05 and 2005/06.
Asked to pick whether the team he played in or today’s line-up spearheaded by Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez is the more talented, the Gremio graduate said: “I never liked comparisons. We were a great team with great players, great individuals, and today’s team is also a great team with great players, great individuals.
“I was successful and my team was successful, we won a lot of trophies and today’s Barcelona is the same, they are very, very successful. Again, I don’t like comparisons, I just wish them the best and hope it continues.”