And it is that rivalry which inspired Ronaldinho to motivate his teammates in a very risky way ahead of the 2005 El Clasico clash at the Bernabeu.
In his new book, Iniesta recounts how Ronaldinho’s late night phone call to drop the bombshell he was joining Real Madrid at the end of the season inspired to team to put in one of the memorable Clasico performances.
“A few days before the Clasico against Real Madrid, ‘Dinho’ called me at home at night,” Iniesta said.
“I answered and he told me: ‘Andres, I know it’s 3am, but I have to confess something. In June I will be leaving Barca. My brother has an agreement with Real Madrid. It’s an incredible amount that I can’t refuse. You’re young, you can understand – but please do not tell anyone in the locker room or the club. Do not betray me I trust you more than anyone. Andres, good night.’
“He didn’t give me time to say anything.
“The next day, we were in training and I felt an awkward atmosphere around me. The whole team was silent and they were all greeting Ronaldinho like never before.
“When the day of the Clasico came, in the locker rooms of Santiago Bernabeu, ‘Dinho’ told us: ‘Guys, today is an important game, they are strong, but these days I discovered that we were like a family. I called each of you during the night and told you that I was leaving in June, but none of you spoke. After that I realised that we were ready to suffer in silence rather than betray each other. I’ll stay here for a long time, now let’s go onto the field and teach a lesson to these players of Real Madrid.’”
Not only did Ronaldinho inspire his teammates, but he clearly also inspired himself as he was given a standing ovation by the Real Madrid fans after scoring twice during Barcelona’s dominant 3-0 win.
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