Belletti believes the Barcelona team he formed part of between 2004 and ’07 was superior to Pep Guardiola’s current model, and that Ronaldinho in his pomp was better than Lionel Messi is today.
“I rate the team I played in much higher, principally because of the opponents we faced,” the 35-year-old, who scored the winner against Arsenal in the 2005/06 UEFA Champions League final, told SporTV. “We played against Real Madrid of [Zinedine] Zidane, Ronaldo and [Luis] Figo, Milan of Kaka, and a Liverpool team who were going through a great phase.”
Belletti, who left Camp Nou for Chelsea in 2007 and hung up his boots last year, also identified the key difference between the two Barcelona sides.
“We played with an established system, different to today’s team,” said the former right-back. “Now you never know how they’ll play. Sometimes it looks like they are using a three-seven [formation], with three defenders and seven players roaming about.”
When the debate switched to whether the Barcelona No10 he played alongside or the jersey’s current occupier was better, Belletti cited the class of opponents Ronaldinho was up against and Guardiola's current team being built around its Argentinian forward as the reasons for siding with his compatriot.
Ronaldinho joined the Catalan giants in a big-money transfer from Paris Saint-Germain in 2003, and inspired the club to two La Liga titles and Champions League glory. The mercurial Brazilian was named FIFA World Player of the Year in 2004 and ’05, before leaving for AC Milan in 2008.
Messi made his competitive Barça debut in 2004, and has since become a champion of Spain five times, Europe thrice and the world twice. The 24-year-old is fresh from seizing his third successive FIFA Ballon D’Or.
“Ronaldinho had opponents who magnified his peak even more – he was up against Zidane, Figo. He also earned me many titles.
“Messi has much more help at Barcelona. If I had to chose between Ronaldinho at that time or Messi now, I’d chose Gaúcho.”
Click this Classic Players link to read about the superb careers of former Barcelona players Johan Cruyff, Sandor Kocsis, Michael Laudrup, Romario & Ricardo Zamora.