Legends in Review – Ronaldo

Brazilian icon Ronaldo was an unplayable striker at the peak of his career. He was an emphatic goalscorer and showcased incredible touch and skills, often mesmerising defenders with fancy footwork and pace.

His goal scoring record at the highest levels of elite football speak for themselves and his esteemed trophy cabinet is testament to how good Ronaldo was across a career spanning nearly two decades.

Ronaldo – The Early Days

Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima was born on September 18, 1976, in Itaguaí, Brazil. He was obsessed with football from a young age and played on the streets of his neighbourhood, an experience that would define his style of play in his career.

At age 11, Ronaldo’s parents broke up and he dropped out of school shortly after to focus purely on football. It paid off and the young Ronaldo joined the Social Ramos indoor soccer team at the age of 12 and played futsal.

But Ronaldo had to leave Social Ramos behind as he moved to São Cristóvão when he was 12. Here he was discovered by two Brazilian agents, Reinaldo Pitta and Alexandre Martins, who signed the talented star. Ronaldo eventually earned a move to professional Brazilian team Cruzeiro at the age of 16 with the help of Pitta and Martins.

The striker started his career in electric form and scored 44 goals in 47 games for the club and helped them to its first Copa do Brazil in 1993 before he gained interest from Europe.

PSV Eindhoven – 57 Appearances – 54 Goals

Ronaldo was sold to Dutch side PSV Eindhoven in the summer of 1994 at the age of 17. He continued his scintillating goalscoring form for Eindhoven and scored 30 goals in his first season at the club.

Now showcasing his skills on some of the biggest stages in world football, Ronaldo’s ability to take players on, burst forward with pace and score started to attract interest from some of the biggest clubs around Europe.

He continued to bag goals for PSV, winning the top goalscorer award for the Dutch league in the 1994/95 season and helping the club to a Dutch Cup win in the following season.

Barcelona – 49 Appearances – 47 Goals

After just two seasons in Holland, Ronaldo moved to Barcelona before the 1996/97 season for £19.5 million, a world-record fee.

Although the prolific Brazilian only spent one season at the Nou Camp, he made a huge impact. He finished the season as La Liga’s top scorer, won the award for Best Men’s Player from FIFA and helped the side to lift the Copa Del Rey.

With nearly a goal per game, long-term admirers Inter Milan showed interest again in the talisman towards the end of the 1996/97 season.

Inter Milan – 99 Appearances – 59 Goals

Now a well-established, world-renowned striker, Ronaldo was signed by Inter for another world record fee of £25 million. Once again, the Brazilian hit the ground running and scored 25 goals in his first season in Milan.

It was also an incredible year of individual achievements for Ronaldo. He won the Ballon D’Or and his second Best Men’s Player of the year from FIFA. He was also named Player of the Season for Serie A.

The Brazilian was becoming the main man for Inter and started to complement his raw skill and goalscoring ability with assists, set-piece goals and penalties. His influence at Inter was highlighted by his captaincy towards the 1998/99 season.

However, in 1999, Ronaldo suffered a knee injury that would plague the next two years of his career. In a match against Lazio, the striker’s knee buckled and it took months of rehabilitation and surgery before he returned for Inter in 2002.

Real Madrid – 177 Appearances – 104 Goals

In the summer of 2002, Ronaldo was signed by Real Madrid. He joined the squad known as the Galacticos, featuring many of the best players in the world between the late 90s and early 00s.

Ronaldo was injured for the first few months of his Real career. But, he made an instant impact when he did return, scoring two goals in 60 seconds on his debut against Alaves.

The Brazilian enjoyed his longest stint at a club with Real. It was a spell that added many prestigious trophies to his already impressive trophy cabinet. He won La Liga twice in 2003 and 2007 and was named FIFA Best Men’s Player of the Year for the third time in 2002. Ronaldo also finished as La Liga’s top scorer for a second time in his career during the 2003/04 season.

AC Milan – 20 Appearances – 9 Goals

Injuries once again hindered Ronaldo’s longevity at Real. He only played a handful of games between 2005 and 2007 and eventually headed back to Milan in January 2007. However, he joined the red side of the city on his return.

Ronaldo started to struggle with injuries and weight issues and never recaptured his form at AC Milan. He still found the net numerous times in is 20 appearances and helped the club to lift the UEFA Super Cup. But a ruptured knee ligament injury in 2008 ended his time with the club. He was released at the end of the 2007/08 season.

Corinthians – 40 Appearances – 21 Goals

Following his injury, Ronaldo spent many more months off the pitch. He flew back to Brazil and trained with Corinthians during his rehabilitation period. He then signed a short term deal with the club in December 2008.

After making his debut in March 2009, Ronaldo recaptured his goalscoring form, scoring seven goals in eight matches. He also helped the club to lift their third Copa do Brazil in 2009.

Despite making a good impression with Corinthians in his first season, Ronaldo continued to struggle with injury and weight issues. He signed a one-year contract extension with the club early in 2010. But he only played a handful of matches after this and eventually retired in 2011.

Brazil National Team – 91 Appearances – 58 Goals

At 17, Ronaldo was part of the Brazil side who won the 1994 World Cup in the U.S, but he didn’t feature in the tournament, despite making his debut six months earlier against Argentina.

Ronaldo was hugely successful with the Brazil team in the following years. In 1997 and 1999, he helped Brazil to win back to back Copa Americas. The striker was named player of the tournament in 1997 and was top-scorer in 1999.

He was also synonymous with the talented Brazil sides in the 1998 and 2002 World Cup tournaments. In 1998, Ronaldo played a part in seven goals for his nation and led the team to the final against France. In bizarre circumstances, however, the leading scorer suffered a fit an hour before kick-off and was removed from the starting 11. He recovered and was reinstated into the team, but struggled in the match, which Brazil lost 3-1.

Ronaldo was also part of the 2002 World Cup-winning Brazil team. Featuring alongside the likes of Ronaldinho and Roberto Carlos, Ronaldo helped his nation to win the tournament. He scored against every opponent in the tournament except against England in the quarter-finals and netted twice in the 2-0 final win over Germany.

Style of Play

From a young age, Ronaldo displayed a rawness learned from street football and by playing futsal. He displayed this so often on the biggest stages in world football, often taking on players with step overs, turns, flicks and driving forward to score.

As his career edged on, Ronaldo added more finesse to his game. He started to score free-kicks and more delicate goals akin to a poacher following his injury problems.

Ronaldo was a player who had everything to be the world’s best, but the unfortunate nature of his injuries only gave him half of a glittering career.

Football legacy

Even today, many superstar players cite Ronaldo as an inspiration to score goals. He could do almost anything with the football, which added that element of class to his goal-scoring ability.

The iconic Brazilian has been enshrined in football lore as R9 following the rise of Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo (R7) in more recent years.