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By ESPN Staff
Aug 18, 2008

Xavi: Ronaldinho paid price for lifestyle at Barca

MADRID, Aug 18 (Reuters) - Brazilian forward Ronaldinho paid the price for his off-field lifestyle at Barcelona, according to former team mate Xavi.

'Ronnie has always led the same sort of lifestyle,' the Spain midfielder told Marca in an interview published on Monday. 'He always told us: 'that's the way I am'.

'When you lead that sort of life you have to understand that when your level drops then the knives will be out. He is like that, he likes going out and enjoying life.

'He was full of life ever since he arrived and that's how he won two leagues and a Champions League.'

Despite his successes in his first three seasons at the club, Ronaldinho attracted heavy criticism when his performances dropped off and his fitness flagged.

Throughout last season there were reports that Barca wanted to sell him off and the 28-year-old finally moved to AC Milan for a fee up to 25 million euros ($37.27 million) in July.

'He has his own private life that should not be interfered with, but it is true that that private life also affects his sporting performances,' said Xavi.

'Ronie went from being an idol for all Barcelona fans to being jeered and criticised and that hurts anyone.'

Xavi said striker Samuel Eto'o, who has received a reprieve after being expected to leave the club in the close season, had learned from his mistakes.

'People think that he is unprofessional and a bad team mate as if he were some sort of time bomb waiting to explode in the dressing room, but he is nothing of the sort. He is an example of professionalism.

'He knows he has made a lot of mistakes, but he surprises me with the enthusiasm and sacrifice he makes in every game. He wants to be the best and he is.'

Xavi said discipline at the club had suffered in the latter stages of Frank Rijkaard's reign as coach, but said said that new boss Pep Guardiola had managed to get the players back into line.

'They are two very different coaches,' he said. 'Rijkaard believes in self-regulation but that is almost impossible in a team like Barcelona where the players earn a lot of money and win a lot of trophies.

'In all collective activities there has to be order and discipline and that is what Guardiola has imposed.... As a coach he knows what he wants and he has got some very clear ideas.'

Barca have been in impressive form in their pre-season matches and hold a comfortable 4-0 advantage after the first leg of their Champions League third qualifying round match against Wisla Krakow.

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