This isn’t usually a football (soccer) blog, but today hey Indy pays homage to one of my personal all time sporting heroes, the great Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima, who sadly today announces his official retirement from the game.
A truly blessed footballer, with the most remarkable football story which in short ranged from prodigy, superstar, anguish, pain, adversity, triumph to legend.
A story which began at Cruzeiro, where a boy discovered by the great Jairzinho tore up the Campeonato as a buck toothed teenage wonder. Stories began to emerge around the world of this new soon-to-be global superstar who was the next in a long line of “the next Pele”. As Romario and Brazil triumphed in the 1994 World Cup, the young Ronaldo was seen to be celebrating as part of an unused member of the Seleção.
A move to bring him to PSV was to follow soon after where Ronaldo annihilated the Dutch Eredivisie and a genuine global superstar was born. Zagallo finally unleashed him on the international scene as a 17 year old soon after the World Cup. By this time, the whole world had awoken to the rising stock of the boy from Rio.
Barcelona was the next stop for Ronie, where he arguably had his finest season ever, showing the whole world that this could perhaps be the greatest player the world has ever seen. With goals such as this one against Compostela, we heard superlatives from his then coach Sir Bobby Robson:
You can’t find a player like Ronaldo andwhere in the world. He is so sensational, the he knows when to shoot or pass. He can drop back 40 yards, with the ball and go off on runs taking a whole defences on his own.
- Sir Bobby Robson 1996
He stayed with the Blaugrana for only a year, after contract disputes and he was welcomed by the adoring fans of Internazionale after Massimo Moratti was able to secure his services. Again, he demonstrated his breathtaking ability, and was dubbed by the italian press as “Il phenomeno”. He lead Inter to UEFA cup success and almost single handedly took on the might of a legendary Juve team consisting of the great Zidane, Del Piero and Davids.
1998 and the World Cup in France was where Ronaldo truly expressed his arrival to international stardom scoring the first of his record breaking world cup tally against Morocco in a 3-0 win. He was absolutely instrumental and the fulcrum of a Brazil side in which he was ably assisted by the likes of Bebeto, Dunga and Rivaldo. Unfortunately heartbreak was to follow as on the morning of the World Cup final against hosts France, he was said to have had convulsions which prompted Zagallo to remove him from his starting XI. Controversially, Ronaldo made himself available, but was a shadow of the great man as France and Zidane became world champions winning 3-0.
Ronaldo returned to Italy where he ruptured his knee ligaments for the very first time. An injury which basically effectively ended the career of the Ronaldo we once knew. A long rehabilitation ensued, and after a gruelling year of physio he was ready for his return against Lazio when the unthinkable happened just minutes into his comeback. He ruptured the same ligament once again. Anguish on his face echoed around the world, as football fans were once again deprived of his talents. With serious doubts about whether he could ever play again, Ronaldo showed an incredible amount of human will to finally come back with almost 2 years out of the game with the 2002 World Cup in Japan/Korea on the horizon.
Brazil had endured a terrible qualifying campaign shorn of Ronaldo and a lot of european based players during the qualifiers. They just about qualified, and were not really many people’s favourites for the crown. A recovering Ronaldo boosted the squad but no one was to expect what we saw. Ronaldo had re-invented himself as a goalscorer, a poacher. No longer did we see the Ronie who would drop deep and go at defences from the halfway line but instead someone who could lead the line and was simply lethal in front of goal. So lethal in fact, that it lead to him becoming the top scorer at the World Cup with 8 goals. In the final against Germany, Ronaldo’s fairytale was complete as he scored 2 goals to secure record breaking success for Brazil. A tale of true adversity, where he was able to overcome his demons from 4 years ago, and the unbelievable injuries.
A move to Real Madrid was to follow for the great man, as Real added him to the likes of Zinedine Zidane and Figo in their Galactico project. It was simply a joy to see the likes of Zidane and Ronaldo play in tandem week in week out… pure fantasy football. it may surprise many to know the the first Ronaldo to score a hat trick at Old Trafford was not Cristiano but infact the Brazilian legend.
His career was a little up and down at Real where he enjoyed winning La Liga but was eventually let go by Capello who was ripping up the galactico project and starting afresh. 2006 in Germany saw Ronaldo become the all time leading goalscorer in the World Cup as he added another 3 to his tally to overtake Gerd Muller.
Moves to Milan, where he suffered a heart breaking third knee ligament injury followed. Once more he recovered, yet at this point he was plagued with accusations of being over weight and unprofessional. How this is possible after what the man had been through was beyond me. Finally the great man chose to end his career at Corinthians back in Brazil.
What a journey. What a story. What a man. A man who achieved remarkable success despite all the adversity he suffered, in what will always be a truly inspiring story to me.
Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima. Thank you. Enjoy your retirement!
Years – Team – Apps – (Gls)
1993 Cruzeiro 14 (12)
1994–1996 PSV 46 (42)
1996–1997 Barcelona 37 (34)
1997–2002 Inter Milan 68 (49)
2002–2007 Real Madrid 127 (83)
2007–2008 AC Milan 20 (9)
2009–2011 Corinthians 31 (18)
Check out his wikipedia page for other stats.