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Ronaldo (Brazilian footballer)

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Ronaldo in May 2013
Personal information
Full name Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima
Date of birth (1976-09-18) 18 September 1976 (age 41)
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 A.C. 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

Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima (Brazilian Portuguese: [ʁoˈnawdu ˈlwiʒ nɐˈzaɾju dʒ ˈɫĩmɐ]; born 18 September 1976),[2] commonly known as Ronaldo, is a retired Brazilian professional footballer who played as a striker. Popularly dubbed O Fenômeno ("The Phenomenon"), he is widely considered to be one of the greatest football players of all time.[3][4][5][6] In his prime, he was known for his dribbling at speed, feints, and clinical finishing, at his best in the 1990s, Ronaldo starred at club level for Cruzeiro, PSV, Barcelona, and Inter Milan. His moves to Spain and Italy made him only the second player, after Diego Maradona, to break the world transfer record twice, all before his 21st birthday, at age 23, he had scored over 200 goals for club and country. After almost three years of inactivity due to serious knee injuries and recuperation, Ronaldo joined Real Madrid in 2002, which was followed by spells at A.C. Milan and Corinthians.

Ronaldo won the FIFA World Player of the Year three times, in 1996, 1997 and 2002, and the Ballon d'Or twice, in 1997 and 2002, as well as the UEFA Club Footballer of the Year in 1998. He was La Liga Best Foreign Player in 1997, when he also won the European Golden Boot after scoring 34 goals in La Liga, and he was named Serie A Footballer of the Year in 1998. One of the most marketable sportsmen in the world, the first Nike Mercurial boots–R9–were commissioned for Ronaldo in 1998, he was named in the FIFA 100, a list of the greatest living players compiled in 2004 by Pelé, and was inducted into the Brazilian Football Museum Hall of Fame and the Italian Football Hall of Fame.

Ronaldo played for Brazil in 98 matches, scoring 62 goals, and is the second-highest goalscorer for his national team, trailing only Pelé, at age 17, Ronaldo was the youngest member 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 starred in a front three with Ronaldinho and Rivaldo. Ronaldo scored twice in the final, and received the Golden Boot as tournament's 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 further injuries, Ronaldo retired from professional football in 2011. Post-retirement, he has continued his work as a United Nations Development Programme Goodwill Ambassador, a position to which he was appointed in 2000. He served as an ambassador for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

Club career


"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.[7]

In 1993, Ronaldo began his football career playing for Cruzeiro.[8] Aged 16, he made his professional debut on 25 May 1993 against Caldense in the Minas Gerais State Championship.[8] Ronaldo came to national public attention on 7 November 1993, scoring five goals in the game against Bahia.[9]

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,[10] 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.[11]

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.[12] Ronaldo scored 30 league goals in his first season in the Netherlands, after scoring a hat-trick in PSV’s game against Bayer Leverkusen in the 1994–95 UEFA Cup, Leverkusen striker and Germany World Cup winner Rudi Völler stated in a post match press conference, “Never in my life have I seen an 18-year-old play in this way.”[12]

Nick Miller, match reporter for The Guardian, writes, “What’s striking about Ronaldo in that first year at PSV is how complete he looks, even as a skinny teenager. Everything that would come to define him – the lightning pace, the blurry stepovers, the implausible impression that he was faster with the ball than without it, even the exceptional upper-body strength – was all there.”[12] Ronaldo’s 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, scoring 19 goals in 21 appearances,[12] with PSV, Ronaldo won the Dutch Cup in 1996 and he was Eredivisie top scorer in 1995.[13] During his two seasons at the club he scored 54 goals in 58 games.[14]


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.[14] 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,[14] 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,[15] until the 2008–09 season, Ronaldo remained the last player to score more than 30 goals in La Liga.[15]

"He was physical perfection, and he seemed like a mythical figure. I love [Lionel] Messi, I played many times with Cristiano [Ronaldo] and I adore him, Neymar is outstanding, Ronaldinho was exceptional—but if you put all of them together, you might get what Ronaldo was that season."

Quinton Fortune remembers playing against Ronaldo in the 1996–97 season.[16]

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.[14] Óscar García, Ronaldo’s team-mate that season, stated, “Back then, he was all fibre and muscle. He was a perfect physical specimen, such incredible power matched to his technical skills could make him unstoppable."[16] Atletico Madrid’s Quinton Fortune, who played against Ronaldo three times that season – Ronaldo scored eight goals – including having to mark him once, stated, “I saw him after the match finished, and that’s the nearest I was to Ronaldo on the night, as a kid, I wanted to be Pelé. I bought all the books, all the videos and I studied what it could be like to be the best. I set off on that path. Then I met Ronaldo, some players were technical, some were quick, some were strong, some were smart...Ronaldo was all of those, he was a beast; it was unfair to everyone else.”[16]

Arguably Ronaldo’s most memorable Barcelona goal was scored at SD Compostela on 11 October 1996.[14] 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,[14] 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.[14] 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",[14] the day after the goal, the headline in the Spanish newspaper AS read: 'Pelé returns'.[14] A hat-trick against Valencia, the third goal of which saw him dissect two Valencia defenders before striking the ball into the net, saw Barcelona fans waving white handkerchiefs as an expression of admiration for an exceptional performance,[17] such was the manner Ronaldo ran through opposing defences, former Real Madrid forward Jorge Valdano commented; "he's not a man, he's a herd".[18] Sid Lowe of Sports Illustrated states, “That season Ronaldo was unstoppable, he was slim and powerful, skillful, fast and deadly. He was ridiculously good.”[19] At the end of 1996, aged 20, Ronaldo became the youngest player to win FIFA World Player of the Year.[14]

Inter Milan

1997–99: World record transfer and Ballon d'Or win

Ronaldo's time at Barcelona lasted one season, as there were problems with the renegotiation of his contract.[14] 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".[14] 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".[14] 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, making him the second player, after Diego Maradona, to break the world transfer record twice.[14][18]

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. 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,[20] 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,[21] his Inter teammate Youri Djorkaeff stated; "Ronaldo was phenomenal. He proved that he was a cut above the rest that season."[21] 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.[22] By the end of the 1998–1999 season, he was appointed Inter Milan captain.[23]

1999–2002: Recurring injury problems

"The knee injuries suffered at Inter Milan took away the explosiveness that made him possibly the greatest young footballer of all time, a futuristic fusion of speed, strength and skill. That is not to belittle Ronaldo’s achievements in the second half of his career, when he scored eight goals in a single World Cup [in 2002] and became the first Ronaldo to receive a standing ovation at Old Trafford [in 2003], but it is the memory of the early years that puts mist in the eyes of grown men."

—Rob Smyth, The Guardian.[18]

After two seasons with Inter, A. C. Milan defender 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, since Ronaldo's teammate Javier Zanetti had replaced him as the team captain during his absence, he eventually inherited the captain's band in late 2001.[28] 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.[20] 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.[20]

Real Madrid

2002–2005: Ballon d'Or win and La Liga championship

Ronaldo won La Liga in his first season and received the Pichichi Trophy in his second.

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 of global stars signed by the club every summer, which included Zinedine Zidane, Luís Figo, Roberto Carlos and David Beckham.[29] 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.[30] Ronaldo was substituted on 80 minutes and was given a standing ovation from both sets of fans;[30] 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,[31] 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.[32] 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.[15]

2005–2007: Final two seasons

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.[33] Although the knee injuries before 2002 meant he “was robbed of the explosiveness of his early years” by the time he signed for Real Madrid,[34] Ronaldo was named by Marca as a member of the "Best foreign eleven in Real Madrid's history".[35]

A.C. Milan

San Siro stadium in Milan where Ronaldo played for both Inter (1997 to 2002) and A.C. Milan (2007 to 2008)

On 18 January 2007, it was reported that Ronaldo agreed terms with A.C. Milan for a transfer of €8.05 million.[36] 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 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[37] 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 Milan, as they won 4–3. In his first season, Ronaldo scored seven goals in 14 appearances.[26]

After his move to Milan, Ronaldo joined the list of the few players to have played for both Inter Milan and A.C. Milan in the Derby della Madonnina, and is one of two players to have scored for both rival teams in the Milan derby game (for Inter in the 1998–99 season and for A.C. 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 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 Milan's much hyped attacking trio of Kaká, Alexandre Pato and Ronaldo, known as Ka-Pa-Ro, played together.[38]

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 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.[39]

On 13 February 2008, Ronaldo suffered a severe season-ending knee injury while jumping for a cross in 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.[40] Silvio Berlusconi told Italy's RAI TV, "He fears for his career. I called him last evening and told him to believe in himself, he has enormous physical potential.”[40] He was released by Milan at the end of the season, as his contract expired and was not renewed.[41]


2009–2010: Paulistão and Copa do Brasil

Ronaldo with Corinthians in 2010

Ronaldo trained with Brazilian club 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.[42] 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.[41]

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.[43] Ronaldo scored his first goal for Corinthians on 8 March 2009 in a Campeonato Paulista match against Palmeiras,[44] he helped Corinthians win the Campeonato Paulista with 10 goals in 14 games.[45]

Ronaldo holding his ankle in 2010. The injury was the latest for a striker who suffered serious knee injuries which hampered his career in the 2000s.

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.[46]

2011: Retirement

In February 2011, after Corinthians were eliminated from the 2011 Copa Libertadores by the Colombian team Deportes Tolima, Ronaldo announced his retirement from football, concluding an 18-year career.[47][48][49] In an emotional press conference on 14 February, he cited pain and hypothyroidism as the reasons for his premature retirement.[50] Ronaldo admitted his body had finally succumbed to the crippling litany of injuries that had 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."[51][52]

International career

Ronaldo made his international debut for Brazil on 23 March 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.[53] 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.[54]

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.[55] 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.[56]

1998 FIFA World Cup

Stade de France (interior pictured), where Ronaldo performed in the 1998 World Cup final despite suffering a convulsive fit six hours before kick off.

Ronaldo entered the 1998 FIFA World Cup billed as the world's greatest player by reporters in the sport.[57] 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."[57] He scored four goals and made three assists en route to the final. Hours before the final he suffered a convulsive fit,[58] 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.[57] 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.[57]

Ronaldo was the last Brazilian player out of the tunnel as the teams entered the field, during the playing of the Brazil national anthem the camera focused on him throughout, with Ronaldo showing little emotion. Steinberg states that Ronaldo "sleepwalked" through the final in what was a below par performance for the striker, which also saw him injured in a collision with French goalkeeper Fabien Barthez.[57] Zagallo admitted the fears over Ronaldo affected his team psychologically, and stated "for the whole of the first half I was wondering whether to take him off", but feared a public outcry in Brazil had he done so.[57] Brazil lost the match to hosts France 3–0.[59] Ronaldo later reflected: "We lost the World Cup but I won another cup - my life."[58] An inquest was launched in Brazil, with team doctor Lídio Toledo telling the commission "imagine if I stopped Ronaldo playing and Brazil lost, at that moment I'd have to go and live on the North Pole."[57] 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."[60] Despite his sub-par performance in the final due to his seizure hours earlier, 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.[61]

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.[62]

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;[63] 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.[64] 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.[65]

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.[66] Ronaldo was congratulated by Pelé when receiving his World Cup winners medal.[67] 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."[62] Ronaldo received a number of accolades for his achievement, including the Laureus World Sports Award for Comeback of the Year and the BBC Overseas Sports Personality of the Year, and in December 2002 he dedicated his third FIFA World Player of the Year award to the medical team which helped him recover.[68]

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. With 10 goals in 15 games, Ronaldo was the South American top scorer in Brazil's qualifying campaign, helping them to qualify in first place.[69]

At the 2006 World Cup, Ronaldo was part of a much-publicized "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,[70][71] although Brazil won their first two group games against Croatia and Australia, Ronaldo was repeatedly jeered for being overweight and slow,[72] but coach Carlos Alberto Parreira kept him in the starting lineup.

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 fourteen, 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 fifteenth-career World Cup goal.[6][73] With his third goal of the tournament, Ronaldo became only the second player ever, after Jürgen Klinsmann, to score at least three goals in each of three World Cups.[74] Brazil, however, were knocked out by France 1–0 with a goal by striker Thierry Henry in the quarter-finals.[75] Ronaldo was awarded the Bronze Shoe as the third-highest goal-scorer of the World Cup.[76]

Ronaldo and Klinsmann's shared record of at least three goals in three separate World Cup finals was broken by 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. Ronaldo finished with fifteen total goals in nineteen World Cup matches, for an average of 0.79 per game.[77]

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,[78] 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.[79]

Ronaldo played for 15 minutes in a match that ended with a Brazilian victory with a goal from Fred.[80] 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,[81] after the first half ended, Ronaldo made a farewell speech to the crowd.[81] Ronaldo retired from international football as the second highest goalscorer for Brazil, behind only Pelé, with 62 goals in 98 appearances.[82]

Ronaldo in Moscow, Russia in 2018 at the FIFA World Cup opening ceremony

On 13 December 2011 Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane 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 Ronaldo and Zidane established in 2003.[83][84][85][86] In December 2012, Ronaldo and Zidane reunited for the Match Against Poverty in Porto Alegre, Portugal, with the field littered with World Cup winners from France and Brazil, which also saw 1982 World Cup legend Zico turn out for Ronaldo’s team;[87] in January 2013, Ronaldo was named one of the six Ambassadors of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.[88]

Ronaldo and Vladimir Putin on Moscow’s Red Square, 28 June 2018

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.[89] Ronaldo scored a hat-trick in the next year's match on 21 April 2015 in St Etienne, France, with proceeds going towards the African countries most affected by the Ebola epidemic.[90]

On 14 June 2018, Ronaldo featured at the 2018 FIFA World Cup opening ceremony held at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia.[91] He walked out with a child wearing a Russia 2018 shirt at the beginning, and returned at the end of the ceremony with the official ball of the 2018 World Cup – Adidas Telstar 18 – which was sent into space with the International Space Station crew in March and came back to Earth in early June.[91]

Style of play

"Ronaldo did things nobody had seen before. He, together with Romário and George Weah, reinvented the centre-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.[92]

Ronaldo is regarded by many in the sport as one of the greatest and most complete forwards of all time.[3][6][93] 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 teammates, due to his vision, passing and crossing ability.[3][94][95] He was an extremely powerful, fast, and technical player, as well as being a composed finisher,[96][97] he was capable of playing in several offensive positions, although his preferred role was that of a striker,[3][98] and he was able to use both feet, despite being naturally right footed.[99][100] Ronaldo was highly regarded for his technical ability, and he is considered one of the most skilful individual dribblers in the game.[101] Along with Brazilian compatriot Romário and Liberian star 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, and nimble footwork in his prime.[3][6][101]

"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."

—Former France defender Marcel Desailly on Ronaldo’s combination of speed and close ball control.[18]

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][102] Sid Lowe of Sports Illustrated writes, “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!.”[19]

"There were two Ronaldos: the one that returned after long-term injury in 2002 was a great goalscorer, but the 1990s version was a great everything. At his fearsome peak for PSV, Barcelona and Inter Milan he was arguably the most dangerous striker the world has ever seen."

—Rob Smyth, The Guardian.[18]

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,[93][103] his coach at Barcelona, Bobby Robson, commented: "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.”[18] 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."[104] His Barcelona teammate Óscar García observed, “I'd never seen anyone play football with such technical ability, creativity and precision at that incredible speed. What stood out to all of us, from the moment we met Ronnie, was that he could do things which other players found very difficult and make them look easy, but he could also produce those things while running at an unbelievable, explosive pace.”[16] With his combination of speed, skill and finishing Ronaldinho called Ronaldo "the most complete striker there has ever been."[105]

Ronaldo was also a strong and powerful player who could shield the ball from the opposition, with former Italian defender Alessandro Nesta (who faced Ronaldo in a high-profile one on one duel in the 1998 UEFA Cup final which was billed as “the best attacker against the best defender in Serie A”) stating: "It was the worst experience of my career. Ronaldo is the hardest attacker I've ever had to face, he was impossible to stop."[104] With his quick reactions and anticipation, Ronaldo often 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, he was an accurate free-kick and penalty kick taker.[93] On his precocious talent, Rob Smyth of The Guardian wrote, "Ronaldo is easily the best of the past 30 years, possibly ever, the other Ronaldo and Messi were brilliant teenagers but had nothing like the same impact at that age. Only Pelé, Diego Maradona and George Best can really compare."[18] At his physical peak in the 1990s, Ronaldo 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][96]

Personal life

Ronaldo is the third child of Nélio Nazário de Lima, Snr. and Sônia dos Santos Barata. Ronaldo has a brother, Nélio Jr.[106][107]

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.[108][109] Although they never married, they began a long-term relationship and lived together in Milan until the beginning of 1999.[110]

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.[111] 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).[112]

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 a 2005 interview with Folha de S.Paulo, Ronaldo revealed that, somewhat unexpectedly, he identified racially as white,[113] generating a wider conversation about the complex role of race in Brazil.[114][115][116]

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.[117] Ronaldo claimed that upon discovering that they were legally male, he offered them $600 to leave.[118] Also according to Ronaldo, one of the three, however, demanded $30,000 and exposed the case to the media.[119] Ronaldo's engagement to Maria Beatriz Antony was cancelled immediately after the travesti prostitution scandal[120] 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.[121] 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.[122]

"In the dressing room, I was sat between [Paolo] Maldini and Ronaldo, who asked me if I wanted to be part of his clan, showing me a copy of Playboy, or if wanted to be part of Kaká's clan, who had a few church things in the dressing room."

Alexandre Pato on meeting Ronaldo.[123]

In December 2010, Ronaldo and his family moved to a new mansion in São Paulo.[124] 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.[125][126] 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.[127]

Ronaldo was the co-owner of A1 Team Brazil, along with motorsport legend Emerson Fittipaldi.[128] Ronaldo co-owns the sports marketing company 9INE, with his friend, mixed martial artist Anderson Silva, one of his clients.[129][130] 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,[131] on 11 December 2014, Ronaldo became a minority owner of the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the North American Soccer League.[132][133]

In 2017, Ronaldo's son, Ronald, was selected for the junior football team representing Brazil in the 2017 Maccabiah Games,[134] the Maccabiah is described as "the Jewish Olympics"; Ronald is not Jewish, but some participating countries have more relaxed rules about eligibility and Ronald is a member of a Jewish football club.[134] In 2017 Ronaldo was added as a legend to the Ultimate Team in EA SportsFIFA video game FIFA 18, receiving a 95 rating along with Brazilian compatriot Pelé, Argentine playmaker Diego Maradona, former Russian goalkeeper Lev Yashin and former French star Thierry Henry.[135]

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.[136] He is closely associated with the original Nike Mercurial R9 that was designed for him for the 1998 FIFA World Cup.[137][138] 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."[137]

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.[139] 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;[139] 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 Eric Cantona as the tournament "referee".[140][141]

Career statistics


Club Season League Regional
Cup Continental Other Total
Division Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Cruzeiro 1993 Série A 14 12 2 0 4 8 1 0 21 20
1994 18 22 8 2 26 24
Total 14 12 20 22 12 10 1 0 47 44
PSV 1994–95 Eredivisie 33 30 1 2 2 3 36 35
1995–96 13 12 3 1 5 6 21 19
Total 46 42 4 3 7 9 57 54
Barcelona 1996–97 La Liga 37 34 4 6 7 5 1 2 49 47
Total 37 34 4 6 7 5 1 2 49 47
Internazionale 1997–98 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
2001–02 10 7 1 0 5 0 16 7
Total 68 49 8 3 22 7 1 0 99 59
Real Madrid 2002–03 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
Total 127 83 11 4 36 15 3 2 177 104
Milan 2006–07 Serie A 14 7 14 7
2007–08 6 2 6 2
Total 20 9 20 9
Corinthians 2009 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
Total 31 18 21 11 8 3 9 3 0 0 69 35
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
2002 12 11
2003 8 3
2004 11 6
2005 5 1
2006 7 5
2011 1 0
Total 98 62

International goals




PSV Eindhoven[6]


Inter Milan[6]

Real Madrid[6]






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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