One of the greatest players to have ever played the game, Ronaldo has called an end to his footballing career, aged 34, playing in his homeland for Corinthians.
Ronaldo burst onto the scene in the mid-90s after winning the 1994 World Cup aged 17 as an unused squad player when he left Cruzeiro to join Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven, scoring 42 goals in 46 appearances over two seasons (and 9 in 7 European games).
It was his move from PSV to Bobby Robson’s Barcelona that saw Ronaldo’s fame and popularity shoot through the roof. He stayed one just season, and in that 1996/97 season Ronaldo scored a breathtaking 47 goals in 49 games for the Catalan giants, as he slipped past defenders for fun on his way to winning the European Golden Boot award.
Ronaldo won the FIFA World Player of the Year in 1996, 1997 and 2002. He and Zinedine Zidane are the only players to have won the award on three occasions.
He was quick, strong and had a powerful shot. Defenders could not handle him, and he skipped past goalkeepers when one-on-one. He’s the most-gifted footballer I have ever seen. That season for Barcelona was probably his greatest, but he had several that come close! Despite staying for just one single season, he is listed on Barcelona’s list of legends. He helped the club win the Copa del Rey and UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup that season.
Inter Milan paid a world record fee of £19,000,000 to sign Ronaldo from Barcelona in 1997. In his first season in Serie A, he scored 25 league goals in 34 games. He helped the side to lift the UEFA Cup in his first season, but the following 4 seasons would see him suffer with knee injuries. Prior to those injuries, Ronaldo lit up the 1998 World Cup in France, scoring 4 goals before his will-he-play-won’t-he-play saga ahead of the final.
After missing the best part of 2 years out, that included two operations and rehabilitation, Ronaldo made a return for Inter just before the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan. Sporting his infamous hair cut (so that his son could tell him apart from Roberto Carlos), he lead Brazil to their fifth World Cup success, winning the Golden Boot in the process, with 8 goals. He scored both goals in their 2-0 victory over Germany in the final, with a little help from Oliver Kahn. This made him Brazil’s all-time World Cup goalscorer with 12 goals.
Following 59 goals in 99 games for the Nerazzurri, Ronaldo transferred from Inter Milan to Real Madrid for £28,500,000. All the hype following, and despite injuries delaying his debut until October, Ronaldo hit 30 goals in 44 appearances for Real Madrid that season, he won his first European domestic league title in his first season for the Galacticos.
Ronaldo stayed at Real Madrid for just over 4 years, scoring 104 goals in 177, winning La Liga on two occasions. Before leaving the Spanish giants in 2007, he had gained weight and was forced to buy out his contract to move back to Milan, but this time AC. He weight was becoming a laughing stock at this point. It was such a shame to see such a talent’s career ending like this. He didn’t get many games for AC Milan before a third career injury to his left knee ended his time at the San Siro. During his time at Madrid, he scored 3 goals at the 2006 World Cup, making him the all-time leader in the history of the competition with 15.
Ronaldo had been playing for Corinthians since March 2009 before he announced his retirement today.
A master dribbler and scorer of many great goals, Ronaldo was unstoppable at his peak. For the several matches I saw of him for Brazil, Barcelona, Inter Milan and Real Madrid, to me, he is the greatest footballer I have ever seen. Unfortunately, unlike Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, the Ronaldo never won the Champions League.