RIO DE JANEIRO - He may be 34, plagued by
injuries and struggling to keep his weight down, yet Ronaldo
could still play a decisive role in the Brazilian championship
race this year.
The former Real Madrid, Barcelona, AC Milan and Inter Milan
striker is seen as holding the key when his present club
Corinthians face Cruzeiro, where he burst onto the scene as a
17-year-old, in a potential title decider on Saturday.
The two teams are neck and neck on 60 points from 34 games,
one behind leaders Fluminense, with four matches each to go.
Both teams are aware that the Phenomenal One is likely to be
the decisive figure, despite his modest total of five goals in
"Of course Ronaldo is different and his presence changes the
game... there are players who play better when he plays. We have
to be very careful," Cruzeiro coach Cuca told reporters.
With Ronaldo playing the full 90 minutes in each of their
last five matches, Corinthians have put together a run of three
wins and two draws, recovering from a five-match winless run
when their number nine was sidelined.
Conscious of his importance to the team, Ronaldo said he
would do his utmost to play in Corinthians' remaining matches as
they attempt to win the title in their Centenary year.
He has managed a run of six consecutive appearances only
once previously this year.
"I'm going to play for sure but it's clear that the day
after each match one's body hurts a lot.
"I don't have the same powers of recovery of a 20-year-old,"
said Ronaldo, who plans to retire when his Corinthians contract
expires at the end of next year.
Fluminense, who welcome back former Portugal midfielder Deco
and striker Fred from long injury layoffs, play
relegation-threatened Goias on Sunday.
A draw would not be a good result for either Corinthians or
Cruzeiro, but Ronaldo sees the title race going to the wire.
"Fluminense are ahead of us but they'll still drop points.
That's why we must be concerned with taking ours to be
champions," he said.
"Everything will only be settled on the last day."
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