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Ronaldo in 2013
Personal information
Full name Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima
Date of birth (1976-09-18) 18 September 1976 (age 43)
Place of birth Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Height 1.83 m (6 ft 0 in)
Playing position Striker
Youth career
1990–1993 São Cristóvão[1]
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1993–1994 Cruzeiro 14 (12)
1994–1996 PSV 46 (42)
1996–1997 Barcelona 37 (34)
1997–2002 Inter Milan 68 (49)
2002–2007 Real Madrid 127 (83)
2007–2008 Milan 20 (9)
2009–2011 Corinthians 31 (18)
Total 343 (247)
National team
1993 Brazil U17 7 (5)
1996 Brazil U23 8 (6)
1994–2011 Brazil 98 (62)

* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.

† Appearances (goals)

Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima (locally: [ʁoˈnawðu ˈlwiʒ nɐˈzaɾju dʒ ˈɫĩmɐ]; born 18 September 1976[2]), commonly known as Ronaldo, is a retired Brazilian footballer. Popularly dubbed "the phenomenon", he is considered by experts and fans to be one of the greatest football players of all time.[3][4][5][6][7] He is one of only four players to have won the FIFA World Player of the Year award three times or more, along with Zinedine Zidane, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.[8] He also won the Ballon d'Or twice, in 1997 and again in 2002.

Considered by many one of the best strikers of all time, in 2007 he was named in the greatest ever starting eleven by France Football magazine and in 2004 was named in the FIFA 100 list of the greatest living players compiled by Pelé. He was inducted Into the Brazilian Football Museum Hall of Fame in 2006, and the Italian Football Hall of Fame in 2015. In February 2011, Ronaldo announced his retirement from professional football after an 18-year career.[9]

Ronaldo played for Brazil in 98 matches, scoring 62 goals, and is the second highest goalscorer for his national team. Aged 17, he was a part of the Brazilian squad that won the 1994 FIFA World Cup. At the 1998 World Cup he received the Golden Ball for player of the tournament in helping Brazil reach the final where he suffered a convulsive fit hours before the defeat to France. He won a second World Cup in 2002 where he scored twice in the final, and received the Golden Boot as top goalscorer. During the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Ronaldo scored his 15th World Cup goal, which was a World Cup record at the time.

Having suffered a string of serious injuries throughout his career, Ronaldo retired on 14 February 2011, citing pain and hypothyroidism as the reasons for his premature retirement.[10] Since 2000, Ronaldo has been a United Nations Development Programme Goodwill Ambassador, concerned with helping move the world against poverty.[11] In January 2013 he was named one of the six Ambassadors of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.[12]

Club career

1993: Cruzeiro

"The first time I saw him play was at Cruzeiro. He was still a kid. It was in a game where he ended up scoring five goals. From that point on he showed he was truly a phenomenon."

—Brazilian defender Cafu on 17-year-old Ronaldo.[13]

In 1993, Ronaldo began his football career playing for Cruzeiro.[14] Aged 16, he made his professional debut on 25 May 1993 against Caldense in the Minas Gerais State Championship.[14] Ronaldo came to national public attention on 7 November 1993, scoring five goals in the game against Bahia.[15]

Ronaldo scored 44 goals in 47 games with Cruzeiro, leading them to their first Copa do Brasil in 1993, and the Minas Gerais State Championship in 1994.[16] Before joining Cruzeiro, he was turned down by his boyhood favourite team Flamengo, but Brazilian World Cup legend Jairzinho saw Ronaldo's potential and helped get him the move to Cruzeiro.[17]

1994–1996: PSV Eindhoven

Ronaldo chose to join PSV after the 1994 World Cup, for which he was selected despite being just 17, but did not play. It was Romário who advised Ronaldo to start his European career at PSV; Romário being a former striker of the team from 1988 to 1993. Ronaldo scored 30 league goals in his first season in the Netherlands. His second season was marred by a knee injury which kept him out of most of the campaign, but he still averaged nearly a goal a game in the league, scoring 12 goals in 13 appearances. With PSV, Ronaldo won the Dutch Cup in 1996 and he was Eredivisie top scorer in 1995.[18] During his two seasons he scored 54 goals in 58 games.[19]

1996–1997: Barcelona

Ronaldo scoring the winning penalty for Barcelona in the 1997 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup Final against Paris Saint-Germain.

During his spell at PSV, Ronaldo attracted the attention of both Inter Milan and FC Barcelona. It was Barcelona that was willing to pay the then world record fee of $19.5 million.[19] During the 1996–97 season, Ronaldo scored 47 goals in 49 games in all competitions, with his goal celebration invariably the same with his arms outstretched like the statue of Christ the Redeemer that watches over his native Rio de Janeiro.[19] He led the Catalan side to UEFA Cup Winners' Cup triumph where he capped the season with the winning goal in the cup final, and to Copa del Rey and Supercopa de España wins. He also won La Liga top scorer award in 1997 with 34 goals in 37 games, and the European Golden Shoe.[20] Until the 2008–09 season, Ronaldo remained the last player to score more than 30 goals in La Liga.[20]

Ronaldo was at his physical peak at Barcelona, and many of his 47 goals involved him rounding the goalkeeper before slotting the ball into the net.[19] Probably his most memorable goal was scored at SD Compostela on 11 October 1996.[19] Having received the ball inside his own half, he evaded a cynical tackle of the first opponent with a drag back, before running away from another and ran towards goal where he went past two more defenders in the box with close ball control, and then slotted the ball into the bottom corner of the net.[19] The camera then cut to Barcelona manager Bobby Robson who had got up off the bench and clasped his head in disbelief at what he had seen.[19] The footage of the goal was later used in a Nike advert with a voiceover asking: "Imagine you asked God to be the best player in the world, and he listened to you".[19] The day after the goal, the headline in the Spanish newspaper AS read: 'Pele returns'.[19] Such was the manner Ronaldo ran through opposing defences, Real Madrid great Jorge Valdano commented; "he's not a man, he's a herd".[19] At the end of 1996, aged 20, Ronaldo became the youngest player to win FIFA World Player of the Year.[19]

1997–2002: Inter Milan

Ronaldo's time at Barcelona lasted one season, as there were problems with the renegotiation of his contract.[19] Barcelona thought the talking was over having agreed a new long term contract with the best player in the world until 2006, as Barcelona president Josep Lluís Núñez declared; "He's ours for life".[19] However, when the parties reconvened to finalise the deal the following day, the agreement collapsed, with Núñez admitting: "It's all over, Ronaldo is going".[19] Ronaldo's unhappiness had become evident and at the end of the season, by paying the buy out clause fee in his contract, Inter Milan signed him in the summer of 1997 for a then world record fee of $27 million.[19]

Ronaldo adapted to the Italian style of the game in his first season, finishing second on the league's scoring charts. Ronaldo started to develop into a complete forward. He began racking up assists, became first-choice penalty taker, taking and scoring freekicks, and captaining the team at the end of the season. During his time with Inter, he scored several goals against city rivals A.C. Milan in the Derby della Madonnina. He won FIFA World Player of the Year for the second time in 1997, and collected the Ballon d'Or the same year.[21] The following year, Ronaldo scored a trademark goal against Lazio in the 1998 UEFA Cup Final. Running through defence to go one on one with Lazio goalkeeper Luca Marchegiani, Ronaldo feinted to go right then left, without touching the ball, leaving Marchegiani on his backside, before going right and slotting the ball into the net.[22] His Inter teammate Youri Djorkaeff stated; "Ronaldo was phenomenal. He proved that he was a cut above the rest that season."[22] After the 1998 FIFA World Cup, Ronaldo finished second for FIFA Player of the Year, behind Zinedine Zidane, and was widely regarded as the best striker in the world.[23]

After two seasons with Inter, AC Milan legend Paolo Maldini viewed Ronaldo and Diego Maradona as the two best players he ever faced, stating, "Ronaldo during his first two years at Inter was a phenomenon."[24] Inter had high hopes going into the 1999-2000 season with their attack including Ronaldo and Italian stars Roberto Baggio and Christian Vieri.[25] However, on 21 November 1999, during a Serie A match against Lecce, Ronaldo felt his knee buckle and was forced to limp off the field.[26] A medical examination confirmed that the striker had ruptured a tendon in his knee and would require surgery.[26] During his first comeback on 12 April 2000, he played only seven minutes during the first leg of the Coppa Italia final against Lazio before injuring his knee for a second time.[27] Ronaldo's recurring injury problems forced him to miss the entire 2000-01 season and much of the two seasons either side of it. After two operations and months of rehabilitation, Ronaldo came back for the 2002 World Cup, helping Brazil win their fifth World Cup title. Later in 2002, he won the FIFA World Player of the Year award for the third time, and transferred from Inter to Real Madrid.[21] Ronaldo was given his most recognizable nickname, Il Fenomeno, by the Italian press while playing there. He was named the 20th top footballer of all time for Inter, according to Times Online, and only his injuries prevented a higher ranking. He played 99 games and scored 59 goals for Nerazzurri.[21]

2002–2006: Real Madrid

Ronaldo playing for Real Madrid, 21 December 2005.

Having signed for Real Madrid for €46 million, his jersey sales broke all records on the first day, such was the obsession and hype surrounding him. Ronaldo was part of the Galácticos era where the club signed at least one global star every summer, including Zinedine Zidane, Luís Figo, Roberto Carlos, Raúl and David Beckham.[28] He was sidelined through injury until October 2002 but the fans kept on chanting his name. Ronaldo scored twice in his debut for Real Madrid. He received a standing ovation at the Santiago Bernabéu. That same reception was observed on the night of the final game of the season against Athletic Bilbao, where Ronaldo scored again to seal his first season with 23 league goals and the La Liga title for 2003.[6] He also won an Intercontinental Cup in 2002 and Spanish Super Cup in 2003.[6]

Ronaldo taking a shot for Real Madrid, 2 March 2005

In the second leg of Real Madrid's Champions League quarter-final, Ronaldo scored a hat-trick against Manchester United at Old Trafford, knocking the English team out of the competition.[29] Ronaldo was substituted on 80 minutes and was given a standing ovation from both sets of fans.[29] In the 2003–04 season, Madrid was on track to win the treble, until Ronaldo was injured towards the end of the season; they subsequently lost the Copa del Rey final,[30] were knocked out of the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals, and suffered a league form breakdown. Ronaldo scored the fastest goal in the club's history when he netted after 15 seconds in a league match against Atlético Madrid at the Bernabéu on 3 December 2003.[31] He finished the season as La Liga's top scorer with 25 goals and received the Pichichi Trophy for a second time, despite Madrid losing the league title to Valencia CF.[20]

In his final two seasons at the club, Ronaldo missed a number of games with injuries and weight issues, and with the acquisition of Ruud van Nistelrooy in 2006, he grew further out of favour with the manager Fabio Capello.[3] In four and a half seasons at Real Madrid, Ronaldo scored over a century of goals for the club, becoming the fifth foreigner at Madrid to achieve the feat after Argentine Alfredo Di Stéfano, Hungarian Ferenc Puskás, Mexican Hugo Sánchez and Chilean Iván Zamorano.[32] In April 2013, Ronaldo was named by Marca as a member of the "Best foreign eleven in Real Madrid's history".[33]

2007–2008: AC Milan

"I wasn't able to see Pelé play, but I've seen Ronaldo, and I've never seen a player like him. He's unique, number one in everything."

—A.C. Milan and Brazil teammate Emerson.[13]

On 18 January 2007, it was reported that Ronaldo agreed terms with A.C. Milan for a transfer of €8.05 million.[34] Ronaldo was forced to pay for the remaining period on his contract which tied him to Real Madrid, only because the latter did not agree to release him, while AC Milan were not ready to pay such a sum. On 25 January, Ronaldo flew from Madrid to Milan to watch the team play in a cup tie against Roma. Statements on the club's website said that Ronaldo was in Milan for a medical, and that a meeting had been arranged for Monday with Real Madrid officials to discuss and finalize his transfer to the Milanese club. On 26 January, Ronaldo successfully completed his medical tests at the Milanello training complex under the supervision of club doctors, and the transfer completed on 30 January[35] and got the squad number 99. He made his debut as a substitute on 11 February 2007, during the 2–1 victory over Livorno. The next game at Siena, on 17 February, Ronaldo scored twice and assisted on a third goal in his first start for AC Milan, as they won 4–3. In his first season, Ronaldo scored seven goals in 14 appearances.[26]

After his move to AC Milan, Ronaldo joined the list of the few players to have played for both Inter Milan and AC Milan in the Derby della Madonnina, and is one of two players to have scored for both sides in the derby game (for Inter in the 1998–99 season and for AC Milan in the 2006–07 season), the other player being Zlatan Ibrahimović. Ronaldo is also one of the few players to have started for Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, which also boasts a heated rivalry. Ronaldo, however, has never transferred directly between rival clubs. Ronaldo only played 300-plus minutes in his single season at AC Milan due to recurring injury problems and weight issues. Ronaldo's only goals in the 2007–08 season, besides his goal against Lecce in pre-season, came in a 5–2 victory against Napoli at the San Siro, where he scored an emotional brace. It was also the first time AC Milan's much hyped attacking trio of Kaká, Alexandre Pato and Ronaldo, known as Ka-Pa-Ro, played together.[36]

Despite tremendous success over the past decade, Ronaldo has never won the UEFA Champions League in his club career. During the 2006–07 season, though AC Milan won the 2006–07 title, Ronaldo was cup-tied with Madrid and ineligible to take part. The closest that he has been was in 2003 when he helped Real Madrid to the semi-finals, in which they lost to Juventus.

On 13 February 2008, Ronaldo suffered a severe season-ending knee injury while jumping for a cross in AC Milan 1–1 draw with Livorno, and was stretchered off and taken to a hospital. The club confirmed after the match that Ronaldo had ruptured the kneecap ligament in his left knee. It marked the third such occurrence of this injury, which he suffered twice to his right knee in 1999 and 2000.[37] He was released by AC Milan at the end of the season, as his contract expired and was not renewed.[38]

2009–2011: Corinthians

Ronaldo returned to Brazil and signed for Corinthians in 2009. Pictured with Brazil President Lula in May 2009

Ronaldo trained with Flamengo during his recovery from knee surgery, and the club's board of directors said that the doors were open for him to join. On 9 December, however, Ronaldo signed a one-year deal with Flamengo's league rival Corinthians.[39] The announcement received high publicity in the Brazilian press about his choice of Corinthians over Flamengo, since Ronaldo publicly declared himself a Flamengo fan and had promised to defend the club.[38]

Ronaldo played his first match for Corinthians on 4 March 2009, a Copa do Brasil match against Itumbiara at Estádio Juscelino Kubitschek, in which he came as a substitute for Jorge Henrique.[40] Ronaldo scored his first goal for Corinthians on 8 March 2009 in a Campeonato Paulista match against Palmeiras.[41] He helped Corinthians win the Campeonato Paulista with 10 goals in 14 games.[42]

Ronaldo helped Corinthians defeat Internacional with an aggregate score of 4–2 to help the club win its third Brazil Cup (the second of his career), thus earning a spot in the Copa Libertadores 2010. He returned on 20 September in a match against Goiás. On 27 September 2009, he scored for Corinthians in the 1–1 draw against São Paulo FC. He finished the Brazilian Serie A 2009 with 12 goals in 20 matches. In February 2010, Ronaldo signed a contract extension with Corinthians that would keep him with the club until the end of 2011, and said he would then retire.[43]

In February 2011, after Corinthians were eliminated from the 2011 Copa Libertadores by the Colombian team Deportes Tolima, Ronaldo announced his retirement from football.[9][44][45] In an emotional press conference on 14 February 2011, he admitted his body had finally succumbed to the crippling litany of injuries that have blighted his career: "It's very hard to leave something that made me so happy. Mentally I wanted to continue but I have to acknowledge that I lost to my body. The head wants to go on but the body can't take any more. I think of an action but I can't do it the way I want to. It's time to go."[46][47]

International career

Ronaldo made his international debut for Brazil in 1994, in a friendly match in Recife against Argentina. He went to the 1994 FIFA World Cup in the United States as a 17-year-old, but did not play. He came to be known as Ronaldinho ("little Ronaldo" in Portuguese), because Ronaldo Rodrigues de Jesus, his older teammate on the tournament, was also called Ronaldo and also nicknamed Ronaldão ("big Ronaldo") to further distinguish them.[48] Another Brazilian player, Ronaldo de Assis Moreira, who is widely known as Ronaldinho, would be called Ronaldinho Gaúcho when he joined the Brazilian main national team in 1999.

In the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Ronaldo played with the name Ronaldinho on his shirt, since centre back Ronaldo Guiaro, two years his senior, was one of his teammates. Brazil went on to win the bronze medal.[49] Ronaldo also represented Brazil in the 1995 Copa América (finishing in second place), and won both the 1997 and the 1999 editions of the tournament, finishing as top scorer in 1999. He was the second highest scorer of the tournament in 1997 and was elected the best player of the Copa América. He also took part in the friendly Tournoi de France in 1997, preceding the 1998 FIFA World Cup, scoring a goal as Brazil finished in second place. Ronaldo starred alongside Romário, dubbed the Ro-Ro attack, in the 1997 FIFA Confederations Cup, helping Brazil win their first ever Confederations Cup title where he finished as the third highest scorer with 4 goals, scoring a hat-trick over Australia in the final.[50]

1998 FIFA World Cup

Ronaldo entered the 1998 FIFA World Cup billed as the world's greatest player by reporters in the sport.[51] Jacob Steinberg of The Guardian writes, "In 1998, no one was as ferociously talented as Ronaldo, whose supernatural mixture of power, pace and skill had made him the player every child in the playground wanted to be; at the age of 21, the hopes and dreams of a nation rested on his shoulders."[51] He scored four goals and made three assists en route to the final. Hours before the final he suffered a convulsive fit.[52] At first, Ronaldo was removed from the starting lineup 72 minutes before the match, and the team sheet (with Edmundo as his replacement) was submitted to the FIFA delegate.[51] The starting line up without Ronaldo was released to a shocked world media, however shortly before kick off, after pleading that he felt fine and requested to play, Ronaldo was reinstated by Brazil coach Mário Zagallo.[51]

Ronaldo's performance in the final was below par and he was injured in a collision with French goalkeeper Fabien Barthez. Brazil lost the final to hosts France 3–0.[53] Ronaldo later reflected, "We lost the World Cup but I won another cup - my life."[52] Adrian Williams, professor of clinical neurology at Birmingham University, said that Ronaldo should not have played, saying that he would have been feeling the after effects of the seizure and that "there is no way that he would have been able to perform to the best of his ability within 24 hours of his first fit – if it was his first fit."[54] Despite his sub-par performance in the final due to illness, Ronaldo was awarded the Golden Ball as the best player of the tournament for his performances leading up to the final, and finished the tournament as the joint-third highest scorer.[55]

2002 FIFA World Cup

"I've said before that my big victory was to play football again, to run again and to score goals again. This victory, for our fifth world title, has crowned my recovery and the work of the whole team."

—Ronaldo on his comeback from injury and the 2002 World Cup success.[56]

Prior to the 2002 FIFA World Cup, Ronaldo had barely played since rupturing the cruciate ligament in his right knee in April 2000, and he missed Brazil's entire qualification campaign where, in his absence, the team had not been impressive.[57] In a remarkable comeback from injury that had threatened his career, Ronaldo led Brazil to their record fifth World Cup triumph where he won the Golden Shoe as top scorer with eight goals, and was runner-up to the Golden Ball as most valuable player in the tournament.[58] Dubbed the "three R's", Ronaldo starred in a formidable attack alongside Rivaldo and Ronaldinho, and the trio were named in the FIFA World Cup All-Star Team.[59]

Ronaldo scored against every opponent in the tournament except in the quarter-finals against England. In the final against Germany in Yokohama, Japan, Ronaldo scored twice and tied Pelé's Brazilian record of 12 career World Cup goals.[60] Ronaldo was congratulated by Pelé when receiving his World Cup winners medal.[61] Gérard Saillant, the French surgeon who operated on Ronaldo's knee, was in the crowd as his guest, and stated after the game; "This gives hope to everyone who is injured, even those who aren't sportsmen, to see that by fighting you can make it. He's back to where he was; it's hugely satisfying and I am very moved."[56] In December 2002, Ronaldo dedicated his third FIFA World Player of the Year award to the medical team which helped him recover.[62]

2006 FIFA World Cup

Ronaldo mural in Berlin promoting Brazilian Joga Bonito style of play. The work was commissioned by Nike prior to the 2006 World Cup in Germany

On 2 June 2004, Ronaldo scored an unusual hat-trick of penalties for Brazil against arch-rivals Argentina in a 2006 World Cup qualifying match. Ronaldo was the South American top scorer in Brazil's qualifying campaign, helping them to qualify in first place. At the 2006 World Cup, Ronaldo was part of the "magic quartet" alongside Adriano, Ronaldinho, and Kaká. The all-star Brazilian team was promoted as masters of Joga Bonito, "the beautiful game", which was advertised by Nike before the tournament.[63][64]

Although Brazil won their first two group games against Croatia and Australia, respectively, Ronaldo was repeatedly jeered for being overweight and slow.[65] Nonetheless, coach Carlos Alberto Parreira kept him in the starting lineup in face of calls to have him replaced. With two goals against Japan in the third match, Ronaldo became the 20th player to score in three World Cups and also equalled the all-time World Cup finals scoring record of 14, held by Gerd Müller (Ronaldo scored at France 98, Korea/Japan 2002 and Germany 2006), and then broke Müller's record in the Round of 16 match against Ghana by scoring his 15th World Cup goal.[6][66]

With his third goal of the 2006 World Cup, Ronaldo became only the second player ever, after Jürgen Klinsmann, to score at least three goals in each of three World Cups.[67] Brazil, however, were knocked out by France 1–0 with a goal from striker Thierry Henry in the quarter-finals.[68] Ronaldo was awarded the bronze shoe as the third-highest goal-scorer of the World Cup. Ronaldo and Klinsmann's mark of at least three goals in each of three World Cup finals was broken by the German striker Miroslav Klose, who has a record of at least four goals in each of three tournaments, having netted five at both the 2002 and 2006 finals, and four at the 2010 tournament. With 15 goals in 19 World Cup games, Ronaldo averaged 0.79 goals per game.[69]

Farewell match and sporadic appearances

Ronaldo playing in the Match Against Poverty in Bern, March 2014

In February 2011 it was announced that Ronaldo would be given one last match for Brazil, a friendly against Romania in São Paulo on 7 June 2011, five years after his last match with the national team.[70] Despite it being almost unheard of in international football for players to be given a farewell match for their national side, Brazilian Football Confederation officials stated that given the extraordinary career of Ronaldo, it was only fitting that his final game should take place in Brazil while representing his nation.[71]

Ronaldo played for 15 minutes in a match that ended with a Brazilian victory with a goal from Fred.[72] Fred celebrated his goal with Ronaldo's famous 'finger wag' celebration along with his Brazilian teammates. Ronaldo was introduced after 30 minutes, partnering new star striker Neymar in attack, and had three shots on target which were saved by the Romanian goalkeeper, Ciprian Tătărușanu.[73] After the first half ended, Ronaldo made a farewell speech to the crowd.[73] Ronaldo retired from international football as the second highest goalscorer for Brazil, behind only Pelé, with 62 goals in 98 appearances.[74]

Ronaldo in Bahia, Brazil in 2012 as an ambassador for the 2014 World Cup

On 13 December 2011 world football legends Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldo played a charity match with their friends against former and current players of the German team Hamburg in the ninth edition of the Match Against Poverty series, which the pair established in 2003.[75][76][77][78] In January 2013, Ronaldo was named one of the six Ambassadors of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.[12]

A Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Development Programme, Ronaldo played in the 11th Match Against Poverty on 4 March 2014 against a Zidane XI in Bern, Switzerland, with proceeds raised helping the recovery efforts in the Philippines in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan.[11]

On 15 January 2015, Ronaldo has hinted he might come out of retirement at age 38 and play some games with North American Soccer League's Fort Lauderdale Strikers, a club he co-owns.[79] On 21 April, Ronaldo scored a hat-trick in the 2015 Match Against Poverty which took place in St Etienne, France, with the proceeds going towards the African countries that have been hit hardest by the Ebola epidemic.[80]

Style of play

"Ronaldo did things nobody had seen before. He, together with Romário and George Weah, reinvented the center-forward position. They were the first to drop from the penalty box to pick up the ball in midfield, switch to the flanks, attract and disorientate the central defenders with their runs, their accelerations, their dribbling."

—Former France striker Thierry Henry.[81]

Ronaldo is regarded by many in the sport as one of the greatest and most complete forwards of all time.[3][6][82] Dubbed Il Fenomeno (the phenomenon), he was a prolific goalscorer, and despite being more of an individualistic attacker, he was also capable of providing assists for his team-mates, due to his vision, passing and crossing ability.[3][83][84] He was an extremely powerful, fast, and technical player, as well as being a composed finisher.[85][86] He was capable of playing in several offensive positions, although his preferred role was that of a striker,[3][87] and he was able to use both feet, despite being naturally right footed.[88][89] Ronaldo was highly regarded for his technical ability, and he is considered one of the most skilful individual dribblers in the game.[90] Along with Brazilian compatriot Romário and African superstar George Weah, Ronaldo was seen as a new breed of striker in the 1990s who would also operate outside the penalty area before running with the ball towards goal: Ronaldo was frequently capable of beating several players when undergoing individual dribbling runs at speed, and he was also equally competent in one on one situations, due to his ball control, acceleration, agility, balance, quick feet and technical skills.[3][6][90]

"The best opponent of my career? Ronaldo, Il Fenomeno. Why? Because he was my idol and because, as a football player, he was complete. There will never, in my view, be a better player than him."

Zlatan Ibrahimović.[91]

In one on one situations, Ronaldo would often use elaborate feints to trick and beat defenders and goalkeepers; he most notably popularised the use of many football tricks and skills, such as the elastico, the step over, the nutmeg, among others.[3][6][92] In his prime, Ronaldo was an extremely fast player with great acceleration, which made him a threat for opposing defences when he undertook individual dribbling runs during counter-attacks.[82][93] His coach at Barcelona, Bobby Robson, commented: "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", while Lionel Messi states: "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."[94] Ronaldinho called Ronaldo "the most complete striker there has ever been."[95] Ronaldo was also a strong and powerful player who could shield the ball from the opposition, with former Italy and Milan defender Alessandro Nesta stating: "Ronaldo is the hardest attacker I've ever had to face. He was impossible to stop."[94] With his quick reactions and anticipation, he regularly beat defenders to the ball, and as a finisher he was effective with his head, and could finish well both inside and outside the penalty area.[3] In addition to these attributes, Ronaldo was an accurate free-kick and penalty kick taker.[82] At his physical peak in the 1990s, Ronaldo later became severely affected by serious knee injuries he would suffer from late 1999 onward and the subsequent weight gain during his inactivity, which limited his speed, fitness, and mobility.[3][85]

Personal life

Ronaldo is the third child of Nélio Nazário de Lima, Snr. and Sônia dos Santos Barata. Ronaldo has a brother, Nélio Jr.[96][97]

Ronaldo during a 2005 meeting at the Brazilian Ministry of Education.

During 1997, Ronaldo met the Brazilian model and actress Susana Werner on the set of Brazilian telenovela Malhação when they acted together in three episodes.[98][99] Although they never married, they began a long-term relationship and lived together in Milan until the beginning of 1999.[100]

In April 1999, Ronaldo married female Brazilian footballer Milene Domingues, at the time pregnant with the couple's first son, Ronald, who was born in Milan, on 6 April 2000.[101] The marriage lasted four years. In 2005, Ronaldo became engaged to Brazilian model and MTV VJ Daniela Cicarelli, who became pregnant but suffered a miscarriage; the relationship lasted only three months after their luxurious wedding at the Château de Chantilly. The ceremony reportedly cost £700,000 (€896,000).[102]

A practicing Catholic, Ronaldo donated a signed football to Pope Francis. Accompanied with a signed Brazil jersey from Pelé, it is located in one of the Vatican Museums

In April 2008, Ronaldo was involved in a scandal involving three travesti prostitutes whom he met in a nightclub located in the city of Rio de Janeiro.[103] Upon discovering that they were legally male, Ronaldo offered them $600 to leave.[104] One of the three, deceased Andréia Albertini[105] however, demanded $30,000 and exposed the case to the media.[106] Ronaldo's engagement to Maria Beatriz Antony was cancelled immediately after the prostitution scandal[107] but resumed a little later. Maria Beatriz Antony gave birth to their first daughter, named Maria Sophia, in Rio de Janeiro, on 24 December 2008. In April 2009, the whole family moved to a new penthouse in São Paulo.[108] On 6 April 2010, Maria Beatriz Antony gave birth to their second daughter. The girl, born in São Paulo, was named Maria Alice. Coincidentally, Maria Alice was born exactly 10 years after her older brother Ronald.[109]

In December 2010, Ronaldo and his family moved to a new mansion in São Paulo.[110] Also in December, Ronaldo performed a paternity test and confirmed to be the father of a boy named Alexander (born in April 2005). The boy was born after a brief relationship between Ronaldo and Michele Umezu, a Brazilian waitress whom Ronaldo first met in Tokyo, in 2002.[111][112] After the confirmation of his fourth child, Ronaldo stated on 6 December 2010 that he had had a vasectomy, to "close the factory", feeling that having four children was enough.[113]

Ronaldo was the co-owner of A1 Team Brazil, along with motorsport legend Emerson Fittipaldi.[114] Ronaldo co-owns the sports marketing company 9INE, with his friend, mixed martial artist Anderson Silva, one of his clients.[115][116] A keen poker player, in April 2013 Ronaldo became a member of PokerStars SportStar, and in December 2013 he played a charity poker tournament against tennis star Rafael Nadal.[117] On 11 December 2014, Ronaldo became a minority owner of the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the North American Soccer League.[118][119]

Nike sponsorship

Ronaldo has been sponsored by sportswear company Nike since the early part of his career. In 1996, Nike signed Ronaldo to a 10-year contract and to a lifetime endorsement deal worth over $180 million.[120] He is closely associated with the original Nike Mercurial R9 that was designed for him for the 1998 FIFA World Cup.[121] To celebrate 15 years of the iconic boot, Nike created a Mercurial Vapor IX inspired by the 1998 design, with Phil McCartney, VP of Football Footwear for Nike, stating; "Ronaldo’s impact on the game 15 years ago was immense, and in the run up to 2014, we wanted to celebrate that boot and the man himself. We thought a modern construction of his 1998 boot would be a great commemoration of that moment."[121]

Ronaldo has appeared in a series of Nike commercials. He starred in the 1996 Nike commercial titled "Good vs Evil" in a gladiatorial game set in a Roman amphitheatre. Appearing alongside football players from around the world, including Paolo Maldini, Eric Cantona, Luís Figo, Patrick Kluivert and Jorge Campos, they defend "the beautiful game" against a team of demonic warriors, destroying evil by winning the match.[122] In 1998, he featured in a Nike commercial set in an airport with a number of stars from the Brazil national team, including Romário and Roberto Carlos.[122] In a Nike advertising campaign in the run-up to the 2002 World Cup in Korea and Japan, he starred in a "Secret Tournament" commercial (branded "Scopion KO") directed by Terry Gilliam, appearing alongside football players such as Thierry Henry, Fabio Cannavaro, Francesco Totti, Ronaldinho, Luís Figo and Hidetoshi Nakata, with former player Cantona the tournament "referee".[123][124]

Career statistics


Season Club League League Regional
Cup Continental Other Total
Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
1993 Cruzeiro Série A 14 12 2 0 4 8 1 0 21 20
1994 18 22 8 2 26 24
1994–95 PSV Eredivisie 33 30 1 2 2 3 36 35
1995–96 13 12 3 1 5 6 21 19
1996–97 Barcelona La Liga 37 34 4 6 7 5 1 2 49 47
1997–98 Inter Milan Serie A 32 25 4 3 11 6 47 34
1998–99 19 14 2 0 6 1 1 0 28 15
1999–00 7 3 1 0 8 3
2000–01 -
2001–02 10 7 1 0 5 0 16 7
2002–03 Real Madrid La Liga 31 23 1 0 11 6 1 1 44 30
2003–04 32 24 5 2 9 4 2 1 48 31
2004–05 34 21 1 0 10 3 45 24
2005–06 23 14 2 1 2 0 27 15
2006–07 7 1 2 1 4 2 13 4
2006–07 AC Milan Serie A 14 7 14 7
2007–08 6 2 6 2
2009 Corinthians Série A 20 12 10 8 8 3 38 23
2010 11 6 9 3 7 3 27 12
2011 2 0 2 0 4 0
Career total 343 247 41 33 35 19 93 49 6 4 518 352



Brazil national team
Year Apps Goals
1994 4 1
1995 6 3
1996 4 5
1997 20 15
1998 10 5
1999 10 7
2000 - -
2001 - -
2002 12 11
2003 8 3
2004 11 6
2005 5 1
2006 7 5
2007 - -
2008 - -
2009 - -
2010 - -
2011 1 0
Total 98 62

International goals



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External links

Preceded by
Gerd Müller
FIFA World Cup Highest Goalscorer
27 June 2006 – 8 July 2014
Succeeded by
Miroslav Klose