Full Name: Ronaldo Luis Nazário de Lima
Date of Birth: 22/9/1976
The Early Years
Ronaldo Luíz Nazário de Lima was born in 1976 in a deprived Rio de Janeiro neighbourhood. Football was his passion from a very early age and Ronaldo became something of a teenage prodigy whilst playing for his first club, Cruziero. In 1993, he scored an amazing 58 goals in 60 games, helping his club win the Brazilian Cup, his first professional title. Such an impressive goal-scoring record attracted attention from all over the world, particularly in Europe. This intensified as Ronaldo made his international debut in early 1994 for Brazil against Argentina. Following his involvement in the Brazilian squad which won the World Cup that same year, Ronaldo signed with Holland’s PSV Eindhoven during the summer.
Despite winning the Dutch Cup with PSV (and averaging a goal per game in the Dutch league), it wasn’t until his 1996 arrival at Spanish giants, FC Barcelona, that Ronaldo’s talent was fully realised in Europe. 1996 saw Ronaldo named the youngest ever winner of the FIFA World Player of the Year award and, that season, the young player scored an impressive 34 goals in 37 appearances for the Catalan club. Ronaldo was naturally instrumental in Barcelona’s successful UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup campaign, scoring a decisive penalty in the final. Moreover, despite the club failing to win the Spanish league, Ronaldo finished the season as top scorer. The summer brought fresh success for the player, as he helped Brazil win the Copa America, scoring 5 goals in the process.
Move to Italy and World Cup controversy
This success attracted the eye of FC Internazionale, and Ronaldo completed a move to the Italian club for a record transfer fee. During his first season at the club, he scored in the UEFA Cup Final to help Internazionale on their way to a 3-0 win over Lazio. Ronaldo also became the first player to retain his title as FIFA World Player of the Year and also added the accolade of European Footballer of the Year award to his collection.
The 1998 World Cup signalled the start of an extremely difficult period in Ronaldo’s career. Brazil were defeated by France 3-0 in the final, which was dramatically preceded by Ronaldo suffering a convulsive fit. The decision from Brazil’s management team to play their star striker only a few hours after this event led to heavy criticism. Certain sports writers even developed a conspiracy theory that Nike (with whom Ronaldo has one of his most lucrative sponsorship deals) forced the Brazilian coaching team to make the player take part in the final.
Ronaldo’s fit was blamed on stress, but he seemed to have made a recovery when he won his second Copa America, ending the competition as top scorer. October brought a new problem for the player though, as he suffered a severe knee injury which needed surgery and kept him out for six months. Unfortunately, when Ronaldo made his comeback from this injury in April of 2000, he then ruptured a knee ligament which caused him to miss the rest of the season. Further injuries prevented a successful comeback at the beginning of the following season, as he limped off against Lecce in November 2001.
Banishing the World Cup ghosts and the move to Madrid
Following nearly two years of rehabilitation, operations and general frustration, Ronaldo was declared fit to play in the 2002 World Cup. Many in the media wrote the player off before the tournament, questioning his fitness and claiming he was past his best. However, he scored 8 goals, including two in the final, to help Brazil win the tournament.
It appeared that the player was back to his best but controversially, Ronaldo expressed a desire to leave the club which had stood by him throughout his spells of injury. This greatly angered both the club’s management and the fans, who felt bitter that the player had picked up his millions in wages without even playing a minute of football. Eventually, the player left Internazionale to join Real Madrid. Ronaldo became the latest of the ‘galacticos’ to join the Spanish club and, as such, the media hype surrounding the transfer was phenomenal. Despite winning a third FIFA World Player of the Year award and a second European Footballer of the Year award later that year, public opinion towards the player had somewhat turned. It was now evident that Ronaldo would have to do something special in order to prove himself all over again.
Real Madrid won the Spanish title in 2003, as Ronaldo finished his first season in Spain, scoring 21 times in 30 domestic matches. The following season also saw Ronaldo end the year as top goal scorer. Despite this, the player hadn’t quite managed to rediscover the sparkling form which had made him such an exciting prospect prior to his injuries, especially during his scintillating spell at Barcelona. Ronaldo’s form began to stutter towards the end of his Real Madrid career, with concerns surrounding his increasing weight and apparent lack of fitness intensifying. The 2006 World Cup was a generally disappointing one for Ronaldo but did hold some personal glory, as he scored his 15th World Cup goal against Ghana, beating Gerd Muller’s previous record of 14 goals.
The move back to Milan
In early 2007, Ronaldo decided it was once again time for a change and made the move back to Milan. This time, though, AC Milan was the player’s club of choice. Ronaldo became one of a tiny number of players who have played for both FC Internazionale and AC Milan in the Milan derby and he is the only player to have scored for both sides in the derby game. Indeed, Ronaldo’s form for the club has been promising, with a good ratio of goals per game, as well as some important assists. Unfortunately though, Ronaldo’s AC Milan career has been blighted by injury, causing him to sit out much of the past six months. Nevertheless, the Milan fans live in hope that he can recover the form which propelled him into the spotlight some years ago.
- FIFA World Player of the Year: 1996, 1997, 2002
- World Soccer Player of the Year: 1996, 1997, 2002
- European Footballer of the Year (Ballon d’Or): 1997, 2002
- Onze d’Or: 1997, 2002
- IFFHS World’s Top Goal Scorer of the Year: 1997
- UEFA Most Valuable Player: 1998
- UEFA Club Football Awards: Best Forward: 1998
- FIFA World Cup All-Star Team: 1998, 2002
- European Golden Boot: 1997
- Bravo Award: 1997, 1998
- Copa América 1999: Top Scorer
- Spanish League Top Scorer: 1996-1997, 2003-2004
- Dutch League Top Scorer: 1994-1995
- Intercontinental Cup MVP: 2002
- BBC Sports Personality of the Year Overseas Personality: 2002
- Laureus World Sports Award for Comeback of the Year: 2003
- Golden Foot Award: 2006
- Champion of Champions Award: 2008