Monday, February 14, 2011

A Tribute To Ronaldo, The Fat One

From sprinting through on goal after skinning a defender, to sprinting away from a grocer who's pies he had knicked, Ronaldo's career has taken him to heights, and depths, that not even the greatest Brazilian footballers, had ever reached before.

It was clear to virtually all connoisseurs of the world game, from the moment Ronaldo played his first minutes as a professional, in the shirt of Brazil's Cruzeiro, that Ronaldo Luis Nazario de Lima was very special indeed. After playing just 45 games for his first club, Ronaldo was off to Eindhoven, where his growing  reputation would continue to be enhanced, at PSV. However, following two very successful seasons in Holland, Ronaldo was on the move again, this time to the Catalan city of Barcelona. Scoring a magnificent 47 goals in 49 games for Barca, Ronaldo was to win the Fifa World Player of the Year award following his one, and only, season with the club. It seems ridiculous that a team the size of Barcelona could let go a player of the quality of Ronaldo after only a single season, but, following the breaking down of contract negotiations, the Brazilian striker joined Inter Milan for what was a record sum at the time.

In his first season in Italy, Ronaldo finished Serie A's top scorer, helped his Internazionale team to Uefa Cup glory and one the Fifa Player of the Year award for the second season running. An incredible return from a player with only a hand full of years of European experience under his belt.

Following his first few years of success in the European club game, much was expected from Ronaldo during the Fifa World Cup finals in France. And, at least to begin with, Ronaldo didn't disappoint, scoring four goals in Brazil's run to the final. In the final itself however, Ronaldo underperformed and Brazil subsequently lost 3-0, in a match that will always be remembered for the moment Zinedine Zidane forced himself onto the world statge. However, this match was to prove to be only a blot, on an otherwise stainless Ronaldo copy book, which was further cleansed by a World Cup win in 2002.

More than a year after the '98 final, in November 1999, Ronaldo suffered the first of a series of knee injuries which would come to haunt him for the rest of his career. During a match against Lecce, Ronaldo began to feel his knee and was forced to limp off, with plenty of the game still to go. In the following days it became clear that Ronaldo would need surgery, and the Brazilian superstar wasn't to play again until April, 2000.

Having rebounded strongly after his knee injury, Ronaldo went on to win the 2002 World Player of the Year Award, following his starring performance in Brazil's World Cup triumph in Japan and South Korea. However, 2002 was also to be his last year for the Nerrazurri as, following his World Cup success, he joined Florentino Perez's Galacticos at Real Madrid.

Ronaldo's tenure at Madrid was to prove to be the longest of his career, with the striker playing 164 times for the Merengues, while plundering 98 goals. Also during his time in Madrid, Ronaldo became one of a select group of players, with two fellow members being Luis Figo and Michael Laudrup, who have played on both sides of the El Classico divide.

Despite all the success that preceded it, the end of Ronaldo's Real Madrid career simply fizzled out. Following Madrid's purchase of Manchester United striker Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Ronaldo became more and more out of favor with manager Fabio Capello, and on January 30th 2007, Ronaldo sealed a move back to Italy, this time with AC Milan.

Unfortunately, due to a variety of injury and weight related issues, Ronaldo was never able to have the impact at AC Milan that he had had on the blue and black side of the city, and it came as no surprise to anyone that, after just 20 appearances for Carlo Ancelotti's Milan side, Ronaldo would be joining Brazilian team Corinthians.

During his two seasons with Corinthians, Ronaldo boasted a healthy enough scoring record, something which certainly could not be said about his weight, which was beginning to spiral out of control. Finally, in February 2011, following Corinthian's elimination from the Copa Libertadores, Ronaldo retired from professional football, admitting that at last, his series of injuries had caught up with him.

The latter years aside, Ronaldo's career was one of boundless success. Winning trophies in Spain, Holland, Italy and Brazil cemented Ronaldo's reputation as one of the all time greats. Certainly, he will forever be remembered not just for his achievements with some of Europe's biggest clubs or his ridiculous hairdo, revealed on the day of the 2002 World Cup final, but for the array of fabulous moments he provided those lucky enough to see him play, week in, week out.

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