Barcelona star Lionel Messi has revealed his footballing hero as a boy was world cup winner and Brazil legend Ronaldo.

The Argentinean was speaking to Four Four Two magazine when he spoke of how much he idolised the former Barcelona, Real Madrid and Inter Milan striker when he watched football as a youngster.

Messi has now matched his idol for Ballon d’Or wins at three and is conceivably inspiring the next batch of superstars with his record-breaking performances in the Barcelona shirt.

“Ronaldo was my hero. I loved to watch players like Zidane, Ronaldinho and Rivaldo but Ronaldo was the best forward I've ever seen,” said the 25-year-old.

“He was so fast he could score from nothing, and he struck the ball better than anyone I've seen.”

Lionel Messi is likely not the only teenager at the time to have been inspired by the performances of Ronaldo Nazario de Lima, as the Brazilian was a superstar on the level of the little Argentine in his heyday.

Messi words were obviously welcome and the now retired star reciprocated the praise directed towards him.

“It is an honour. But I can understand this because I was an important player when he was a teenager,” replied Ronaldo.

“When I was young I also needed role models. It's great to see the inspiration was good.”

Ronaldo was famous for his long slaloming runs, brushing off defenders at will, but he was most prominently remembered for prolific goalscoring.

The former Corinthians striker believes Messi has developed the same hunger for goals and revealed what he thought the secret behind the Barcelona man’s effectiveness was.

"Since I can remember, goals were everything for me, and I think Messi has that mindset. He's evolved to become a deadly goalscorer,” added the 36-year-old.

“The way he drags the ball so close to his feet is unique. It's very tough to stop that. That's the main difference between him and other goalscorers”.

Messi looks likely to eclipse his idol in terms of individual awards in the next couple of months, as he is heavy favourite to win the 2012 FIFA Ballon d’Or – an award that would take him to a record fourth time.

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