By Robbie Blakeley, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Brazilian international striker Ronaldo Fenomeno Nazario retired from all forms of football (soccer) last week after eighteen glittering years in the game. The Corinthians front man had originally intended to retire at the end of this year, but recurring knee problems have forced him to hang up his boots prematurely.
“I want to continue but I can’t. I think of an action but my body can no longer execute it. It’s time to go,” Ronaldo told Brazilian reporters last week.
Despite putting on weight and struggling with injuries over the final years of his career, his name is one that all football fans know worldwide as one of the greatest players ever to step onto a pitch.
Born in Rio de Janeiro, Ronaldo started playing youth football for local side Sao Cristovao before scouts from Minas Gerais took him to Cruzeiro at the age of seventeen. Immediately he lit up stadiums with his pace, agility and clinical finishing. His goal record speaks for itself; he has scored over 320 goals at club level, along with 62 goals for the Seleção (national team).
He is one of only two players to win the FIFA World Player of the Year Award three times, his first coming at the tender age of 20. The striker can also add two World Cup Winners’ medals to his vast trophy cabinet and the record for most goals scored in the World Cup. In 2006, with his strike against Ghana, he took his personal tally to fifteen goals, surpassing German striker Gerd Muller.
After moving to Europe in 1994 with Dutch side PSV Eindhoven, he went on to play for four of Europe’s biggest and most successful clubs; Barcelona, Internazionale, Real Madrid and AC Milan. In just one season at the Catalan giants, Ronaldo scored a staggering 47 goals in all competitions, propelling his side to success in the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cip, the Copa del Rey and the Spanish Super Cup. He also picked up the 1997 Golden Boot for scoring the most goals in that season’s La Liga.
It was after moving to Italy with Inter that his series of knee problems began. In five years at the club, he played in less than half his team’s matches after rupturing his right knee tendon in 1999.
For the next two and a half years, Ronaldo spent more time with doctors than with team mates and there were fears his career might already be over.
However, at the 2002 World Cup he put all the misery behind him, scoring eight goals as Brazil lifted the trophy for a record fifth time.
After the World Cup, he secured a move to Spanish giants Real Madrid, where injuries and a love of nightlife finally began to take a toll on his body, and the pounds piled on.
But no matter what size he was, Ronaldo’s natural eye for the goal meant he always had a knack for finding the net.
As football says goodbye to one of its greatest stars over the last twenty years, it is not only Corinthians and Brazil that will be missing a star, it is the world. He was, in a word, phenomenal.