May Ronaldinho never grow up. As much for his individual ability to change the course of a game, it is the energy, enthusiasm, cheekiness and sheer audacity of Barcelona's Brazilian star that has won the hearts of fans, team-mates and national team coaches alike. Typically modest, the player with the broadest smile in the game and, at 24, the second youngest player to win the FIFA World Player award spoke exclusively to You came to the fore at the FIFA U-17 World Championship in Egypt in 1997 , were topscorer at the FIFA Confederations Cup in Mexico in 1999, were among the best players as Brazil won their fifth FIFA World Cup in Japan and, now, you've just been chosen as the FIFA World Player of the Year for 2004. How come FIFA seems to bring out the best in Ronaldinho?
(Laughs) FIFA's name and mine do seem to get on pretty well and long may it continue. When FIFA is mentioned, it is normally because it is an important competition - just the ones where I hope to do my best in. All I can say is that I hope my name crops up many more times with FIFA's, starring and helping my teams in their competitions.

A good number of the current crop of Barcelona players have also emerged after starring in FIFA's junior and youth world championships. How important are they?
It's not just that you are playing against the best when you are young, but that you learn to live together with team-mates. It helps if you win of course, but the experience and knowledge gained from picking things up from other footballers from all over the world does you no end of good. It gives you that extra confidence to go and succeed.

It seems to have helped you in adapting to European football.
It can be difficult for South American players in Europe. They are totally different cultures. I went to Paris, confronting not only a different language and culture, but a foreign style of play. No question about it: you need time to adapt.

At Barcelona, the day of my presentation was spectacular. I immediately felt at home, as if had found the right place, if you know what I mean. Even before I pulled on the Barcelona jersey I had begun to love the place.

What do you consider to be the highlights of 2004?
I've had so many great moments to cherish this year I cannot think of a single one outstanding. I've scored a lot of goals and some pretty important ones too. The winner against Milan (late goal for 2-1 in Barcelona, in Champions League group stage) would definitely rank among the best as it came at a decisive time, the moment when I take it upon myself to make a difference.

The second half of last season was a pretty good time too when we really pulled together and got into a winning rhythm which we've carried on this season. I never expected to score so many goals last season. I see myself as more of a creator than a goalscorer. Now we're playing for fun and that's when you know you are doing well.

In the summer you were part of a Brazilian side that travelled to Haiti for a tickets for guns match referred to as "football for peace". The video ( made by the Brazilian Federation ) is amazing and shows you visibly moved by the passion generated there.
It was so different from what you would normally expect, it's hard to put into words. Haiti is a country that has so many difficulties, poverty and bad things. We went there in the middle of the troubles and we made them forget their worries and at least for a short time brought happiness. It really touched my heart.

Your name is the next in a long list of greats: Romario, Ronaldo, Rivaldo just to mention the Brazilians, all by the way who won while playing for Barcelona. What does it mean to be named FIFA World Player of the Year?
How can I explain? I'm just 24. These guys were my idols and still are, so for me to be the next in the list is just an unbelievable moment. I have been working at my game for the past two seasons and hope my performances are the fruits of that labour. Just to be named among the top three with Henry and Shevchenko is something to be proud of.

There have been some dark years at Barcelona recently, but Ronaldinho seems to be the player the club has long been waiting for. Your enthusiasm appears to have infected the whole team and now nobody can stop smiling.
Well, I don't think it's down to me alone. I arrived at a time when a lot of changes were being made with new directors and other players coming in. Of course, I'm delighted to have been part of a positive change in such a huge club.

But Ronaldinho has provided the thrill Barcelona fans had become used to during the Dream Team days, and you seem to have a special relationship with the public. After your penalty equaliser against Valencia (18 December) you turned to the crowd and repeatedly threw your arms in the air as if conducting an orchestra. If the Nou Camp is the theatre, aren't you the actor who plays to the audience?
I don't see it that way. Simply, I am what I am and well it's easy for me to do what I am told to do - that is play football naturally. Everyone seems to be happy with that. I see myself as a player in a team not an individual alone. At the moment I would not want to change anything.

Everyone says you are such a nice guy. Do you sometimes find it difficult to be a star?
I don't consider myself to be a star. I'm just a young player who can do a lot more and learn many more things in the future.

What does Ronaldinho do to relax?
Outside of the action and training, I like to spend time with my family and listen to music.

You played bongos on the Brazil team bus at the World Cup didn't you?
(Laughs) I adore music, especially percussion instruments. Any drum will do, I just love playing them. Fortunately my Brazilian friends perform quite a lot of concerts in Barcelona and I often go along and listen.

There are quite a few Brazilians now at Barca (Edmilson, Sylvinho, Motta, Belletti, and Deco -who is of Brazilian origin). Do you go together?
No, not really. Everyone has their own special taste. I often dine with my team-mates and in any case we're together a lot already.

How important is your family?
I am what I am thanks to my family. They have helped from the beginning, and continue to do so now. I am happy when I know they are well.

What are your hopes for 2005?
To be better than 2004, to stay fit and healthy and help my club and country win trophies.

Could Brazil win the World Cup for a sixth time in 2006? Although you won in Sweden in 1958 when Pele was 17, victory in Europe has not been easy.
I hope we can. We have a great team, who work hard and that gives us a lot of confidence. We are well placed in the South American qualifiers and have retained the nucleus of the side that won the World Cup last time. That counts for a lot as with each new game, we understand each other better.