RIO DE JANEIRO - Former Brazil striker
Ronaldo, who retired on Monday, was a player whose extraordinary
eye for goal made him a threat even when he was not in ideal
When he was fit, Ronaldo was unstoppable.
Three times World Player of the Year, twice World Cup winner
and overall topscorer in the tournament - not a bad record for
a player who suffered three serious knee injuries and was
constantly fighting weight problems.
Ronaldo was often mocked for his extra kilos and not even
the country's president could resist the temptation to have a
During a video conference with the team on the eve of the
2006 World Cup, after Ronaldo had weighed in at 95 kilos for the
training camp, then President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva asked:
"And what about Ronaldo, is he fat or isn't he?"
Lula later apologised, saying no offence had been intended.
Ronaldo, however, was clearly not fully fit and Brazil bowed out
in the quarter-finals after losing 1-0 to France. Twenty-nine at
the time, Ronaldo never played for the national side again.
It was his fourth World Cup and, despite his obvious fitness
problems, he still managed to score three goals, taking his
career total to 15 at the finals and beating the previous record
held by Gerd Muller.
He burst onto the scene as a 17-year-old with Cruzeiro,
scoring 12 goals in 14 appearances including an amazing effort
against Boca Juniors when he dribbled through the entire
Included in Brazil's squad for the 1994 World Cup, he did
not play but still took home a winner's medal.
By 1996 he had reached Barcelona, where he scored 47 goals
in 49 outings. Still only 20, he become the youngest winner of
FIFA's World Player of the Year, an award he retained the
When the 1998 World Cup came around, Ronaldo, who had helped
Brazil win the Copa America in 1997 and was now with Inter
Milan, the expectations were huge.
His emergence had coincided with a new era of commercialism
in the sport, Brazil had signed a multi-million dollar contract
with Nike while the player became one of the planet's most
There was Ronaldo driving his new car, Ronaldo in Hong Kong,
Ronaldo opening his new bar, Ronaldo taking a helicopter to go
shopping during the Copa America in Paraguay.
At the same time, Ronaldo was lending his name to a host of
products in return for millions of dollars in sponsorship.
Somehow, he found time to play football.
Brazilian commentators began wondering whether it was not
all too much for a player who was only 21 at the time, and they
appeared to get their answer at the World Cup final against
Hours before the game, Ronaldo - who had scored four goals
in the tournament - had what his team-mates described at the
time as a convulsive attack at the team hotel and was rushed to
Despite this, he played in an apparent daze and France
strolled to a 3-0 win. Many feel the episode has never been
Then came the knee injuries. The first was in 1999 and
sidelined him for five months. The hammer blow came when he
suffered a new injury on the same right knee. Many felt his
career was over.
In his absence, Brazil struggled to qualify for the 2002
World Cup but they squeezed in after Luiz Felipe Scolari took
over as coach for the last few games.
Ronaldo had played a few matches for Inter Milan, yet
Scolari - defying public opinion - showed tremendous faith and
took him to Japan and South Korea.
FIFTH WORLD TITLE
He was rewarded as a resurgent Ronaldo scored eight goals -
although one was clearly a Costa Rican own goal which FIFA
re-awarded on Ronaldo's personal appeal - and led Brazil to a
fifth world title nobody had imagined possible.
That was to be the high point of Ronaldo's career. Since
then, he has moved to Real Madrid, back to Italy to play for AC
Milan, and finally to Corinthians in Brazil.
He suffered another knee injury with AC Milan and, although
he again showed tremendous resilience in bouncing back, he has
never regained full fitness and has continued to suffer jibes
about his weight.
His private life got plenty of publicity, whether he liked
it or not. He first marriage was with Milene Rodrigues, whose
talent of keeping a ball in the air had earned her the nickname
"the Queen of the Keep-ups," and they had a son, Ronald.
He later married Daniela Cicarelli at a French chateaux in
2005, but they split up three months later.
The most publicised incident came three years ago when
police said Ronaldo went to a love motel in Rio de Janeiro with
three call girls, only to find out they were transvestites.
"Behind the personality which I carry, I'm a normal person
and I have my weaknesses and my fears," he said.
Ronaldo had planned to carry on until the end of year,
hoping to win the Libertadores Cup - the South American
equivalent of the Champions League - with Corinthians.
But a shock elimination against provincial Colombian side
Deportes Tolima and a hostile reception from the supporters, who
repeated the "fat" jibe, hastened his decision.
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