Ronaldo remains, to this day, one of the greatest and most complete strikers in the history of the beautiful game.
🏟 World Cup elation, heartbreak & retribution
In 1994, aged just 17, Ronaldo was included in Brazil's squad that conquered the world in the United States of America, infamously beating Italy on penalties at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Los Angeles.
Between 1996 and 1998, Ronaldo was the best player on the planet. He ended as the runner-up to Matthias Sommer for the Ballon d'Or award in 1996 and won it for himself in 1997 aged 20. He placed third in 1998 for FIFA's most prestigious individual prize behind Davor Suker and the great man, Zinedine Zidane. Ronaldo won the FIFA World Player of the Year award thrice, in 1996, 1997 & 2002.
The stage was set for 21-year-old Ronaldo, hyped and billed as the best player in the world, to steal the limelight at the 1998 edition of the world's showpiece event in France. Ronaldo scored four goals and assisted three more en route to the final but four hours before Brazil's clash with France, Ronaldo suffered a convulsive fit and Guardian Journalist Jacob Steinberg remarked that Ronaldo "sleepwalked" through the final, after being included in the starting lineup despite not being physically fit to take part. A Zinedine Zidane-inspired France vanquished Ronaldo and Brazil 3-0 and the inquest began.
Injuries would plague Ronaldo's career between 1999 and 2002 and even beyond that, but he would make up for the heartbreak of 1998 by being the matchwinner in the World Cup final against Germany in Japan. Almost fittingly, Ronaldo scored both goals in Brazil's 2-0 win and he was back where he belonged, on top of the world.
😮 Ronaldo's dizzying goal stats over the years
🌍 The legacy of a complete striker
Ronaldo's consistency and prolific goal-output was a remarkable hallmark of his game. He scored 62 goals in 98 appearances for his country and churned out ridiculous numbers for all of the clubs that he represented, despite the nagging injury problems.
He had it all. Pace, power, skill and clinical finishing ability which all combined to make a lethal cocktail and he often made even the most accomplished defenders look like fools.
🎥 Relive Ronaldo's best moments
Here the Brazilian has his way with Serie A defenders in his Inter Milan days.
And who can forget that hat-trick for Real Madrid against Manchester United at Old Trafford in 2003?
🗣️ "When I left the pitch people stood up and applauded me off. It was a very special moment for me."— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) September 22, 2021
🇧🇷 THAT Ronaldo hat-trick at Old Trafford in 2003 ⚽️⚽️⚽️@Ronaldo | #HBD | #UCL pic.twitter.com/pr19lE6Juo
🗣 Ronaldo quotes from a few GOATs
- "I've never seen a player able to show such precise control at such high speed. Watching him was like watching a character in a video game." - Marcel Desailly
- "He played like every attack had a 10-second deadline.. he would explode into life with no warning for defenders. He frequently beat several players when dribbling at speed, and excelled in one on one situations, due to his ball control, acceleration, agility, balance and nimble footwork in his prime." - Rob Smyth
- "Ronaldo could start from the halfway line and the whole stadium would ignite. He was the fastest thing I've ever seen running with the ball. Had he managed to stay free of injury, he had every chance of becoming the best footballer ever." - Sir Bobby Robson
- "When he was one on one with the goalkeeper, you knew — just knew — that he would score. He was so natural, so cool, so utterly in control. He would dip the shoulder, step over, and bang!" - Sid Lowe
- “He was the best striker I've ever seen. He was so fast he could score from nothing and could shoot the ball better than anyone I’ve seen." - Lionel Messi
- "The most complete striker there has ever been." - Ronaldinho
- “As a football player, he was complete. There will never, in my view, be a better player than him." - Zlatan Ibrahimović
Okay one more video, this time in the UEFA Cup semifinal in 1998 on a ploughed field. No matter what the conditions, Ronaldo knew how to find the back of the net.
There will only ever be one Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima and we salute a man who revolutionized the role of the modern striker.