Born: Rio de Janeiro 18 September 1976
Club(s): Cruzeiro, PSV Eindhoven, Barcelona, Internazionale, Real Madrid, AC Milan, Corinthians
International Caps: 98
International Goals: 62
The most complete striker of his generation. Ronaldo Luis Nazario de Lima was a goalscoring machine of sheer pace and strength with skill and ability to match, achieving remarkable feats of net busting wherever he went.
The Brazilian first hit the scene as a 16 year old playing for Cruzeiro scoring 44 goals in 47 games before making his debut for Brazil against Argentina aged 17 in 1994. Ronaldo was an unused playing member of the 1994 World Cup winning squad and moved to PSV scoring 35 goals in his first 36 games.
After a second season in Holland (scoring another 19 goals in 21 games) Ronaldo moved to Bobby Robson’s Barcelona for a world record fee of $19.5m. Doing what he did best the young sensation only just out of his teens scored 47 goals in 49 league and cup games winning the Copa del Rey and UEFA Cup Winners Cup along the way.
In 1997 aged 20 Ronaldo moved to Inter Milan for another world record fee and won the UEFA Cup before entering the 1998 World Cup as the planets best player. Ronaldo had a good tournament scoring four goals and reaching the final with Brazil but suffered an epileptic fit prior to kick off and although initially was taken off the team list ended up playing regardless with ill effect. France won 3-0 but Ronaldo would get his day 4 years later as he scored 8 goals (winning the golden shoe) including two in the final against Germany.
That lead ‘il fenomino’ to a ‘galactico’ €46m transfer to Real Madrid where he would twice win La Liga alongside the likes of Figo, Zidane, Beckham & Roberto Carlos scoring over 100 club goals for ‘los blancos’.
By 2006 Ronaldo appeared in his fourth World Cup finals breaking the record for tournament goals as he scored three (reaching the total of 15 in three World Cup campaigns) prior to Brazil’s Quarter Finals exit.
Ronaldo would have short spells at Milan & Corinthians but injuries and weight issues always niggled his later career.
At his best, Ronaldo was unplayable. Often bullying defenders with strength and speed to leave them in their wake. His finishing ability so natural even past his best he would regularly score. To achieve more goals than any other player in the highest ranked tournament of them all is no mean feat. The original Ronaldo second only to Pele in goals for Brazil was twice winner of the Ballon d’or and three times world footballer of the year winning two world cups and scoring over 350 career goals.
It’s not just how he did it that we will remember though, it’s the way he did it, at such a young age with such frightening space, but always with a smile on his face.