There's something which never seems to change in Ronaldinho. It's been a decade since his Barcelona spell and his body is no longer as elastic as it was, but his eyes still give off the same magic. And, along with his eyes, that smile which changed Barcelona's history is still there. He's still fresh, alive, jovial, just like when he was at Camp Nou, taking Barça from the depression they'd slipped into.
Inside the main office of Barcelona's new New York base, where he scored a goal into an empty net to inaugurate the club's American adventure, Ronaldinho is standing, chatting with his family, including his brother, who always accompanies him. Our presence does not bother him...
How's everything for Barcelona?
Enjoying the mark you left. You look just as happy...
I'm old. I'm 36 now, not 26 like I was then [in Barcelona]...
And what are your plans?
I'm looking at what we're going to do end my career. The idea is to play one more. I'm immersed in new projects, related with music and football which, as you know, are my two passions. I'm looking at new things which I've always liked and we'll see what we do this year.
Could you play in the United States?
I've had the chance to play here many times. I have a lot of friends, many directors at clubs. And now I've got the chance to play here again. It's an option, but what I most want is to have the chance to travel, to promote the things I want to do. And as I said to you, I was speaking of music, but also of other things related to football, like schools for kids all over the world. We will see. In any case, whatever I choose this year must be compatible with all my interests.
What about a return to Barcelona some day?
It was a really nice time. You never know what will happen in the future.
Your career began in 1998 in Gremio. Now, 18 years later, what remains with you from your career?
It was a dream life. I won everything, I am fulfilled. It was a dream life. For me, it's impossible to choose one moment.
Gremio, PSG, Barcelona, Milan, Flamengo, Atlético Mineiro, Queretaro, Fluminense. Eight teams, but was your best time at Barça?
It's the club I played for the most. With all those teams I won titles and prizes. Barça, without doubt, are special to me.
You lacked continuity once you hit the very top, something which Messi, for example, has been able to achieve. Is it difficult to maintain those levels?
Really difficult. It must be really tough [for Messi]. To keep yourself as the No.1 for as long as Leo has... it's really difficult. Messi is a phenomenon.
The hardest thing now is not to maintain yourself physcially, but mentally...
Of course. It's the hardest, the most complicated thing of all. Football's like that. You have to be the best every Wednesday and every Saturday. That's life. It's not easy to maintain that rhyhtm.
Do you think Messi's the best in history?
Every era has its best player. Each one was the best of their time. And Leo is the best of now.
What do you expect from your compatriot Neymar?
I think he will reach Leo's level. He's going to be the best in time. He's young and he's won a lot. Like many others, though, he's unfortunate to be around in the era of Messi.
And the Messi-Pele comparison?
Each player has their time. Garrincha, Maradona... Leo's up there with them all.
For talent, you're up there with them...
Yes, I was also the best. Each person has their time. In my era it was me.
Could you choose the top moment from your years as a footballer?
No way. There's not a goal, a title, a day... I've been lucky to win it all: Champions League, World Cup, league titles in Spain, Italy, Brazil. My whole career stays with me. I couldn't choose one moment.
What's the aftertaste of your spell with Barça?
I won a lot of titles in Barcelona, I had a lot of team-mates... I was there for five years. It's not just winning but living with all the people that helped me so much. It was a beautiful part of my life which I remember with a lot of affection. The memories are unforgettable.
What do you think when people credit you with changing the club's recent history? That everything started with you, with your smile changing the dynamic when the club was in a tricky moment...
It's the greatest thing you can here, the nicest thing you can say to a footballer. It wasn't just me. That would be presumptuous to think. It was all of us: Puyol, Rijkaard, Xavi... We all achieved the change of cycle. I'm really happy that the people of Barcelona remember me and how all this started.
And what does Barça mean to you today?
Many of my friends are playing there, others are working there. I really enjoy seeind this team because they're really good and the club is on a good path. They've spent many years winning titles now.
Does Luis Enrique have the best team in history?
It's one of the best of all time. They have great players and it's a joy to watch them play. A pleasure.
The pleasue is ours.