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Barcelona ‘feared Ronaldinho was leading Lionel Messi astray with poor work ethic’ as he partied and ballooned in size

BARCELONA chiefs once reportedly feared for the future of Lionel Messi - due to the growing influence of party animal Ronaldinho.

The Brazil legend is still recovering from his month behind bars after being locked up for allegedly entering Paraguay with a fake passport - a claim he denies.

His reputation has taken a battering in recent years, but back in 2005 he had the world at his feet.

A Ballon d'Or winner, a World Cup champion three years earlier, one La Liga title to his name and another to come.

Oh, and a global fan base totally enthralled by his skills.

But fast forward to 2008 and the situation was very different.

Frank Rijkaard was in charge of Barca then, an arm-round-the-shoulder type of manager.

A type of manager who, according to a report in the Daily Mail, allowed Ronaldinho to indulge.

Ronaldinho allegedly saw working hard in training sometimes as an "optional extra".

It is claimed that when Ronaldinho was fit and motivated, Rijkaard could have been the perfect man to let his talents shine.

But the issues reportedly came "in the latter stages of their Barca careers, when Ronaldinho spent many of his evening at the bars of Castelldefels, the elegant beachside suburb south of Barcelona" and when his conditioning was "not what it might have been".

The report adds how local papers picked up on Ronaldinho's shape.

One, La Vanguardia, published a photo of the Samba star coming off the pitch with his "beer gut hanging over his waist".

It was at this time that there was allegedly "a fear that Messi, who also lived in Castelldefels, was falling under the influence" of Ronaldinho.

But any fears were not to last.

Ronaldinho left Barcelona for AC Milan in the summer of 2008 and Pep Guardiola replaced Rijkaard.

What was to come was arguably the greatest standard of football ever played by a club, with Messi, in the eyes of many, going onto cement his position as the best player there has ever been.

This is the moment Ronaldinho is told he is being released from prison as he grins from ear to ear on video link

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