Ronaldo – “Il fenomeno”
World Cup heroes: Ronaldo, Brazil
Ronaldo – “Il fenomeno”
He was in the headlines for the first time in 1994 when he was allowed to go to the USA with the Brazilian national team at the age of 17. However, Nazário de Lima Ronaldo Luiz – Ronaldo for short -, born on 22 September 1976, was not a single minute in the Selecao’s fourth title win.
So for the footballer with the incomparable dribblings, the irresistible start and the inimitable goals, the 1998 World Cup final in France was to be the first highlight of his steep career and also the way out of the long shadow of the Brazilian ball wizards Pelé and Garrincha.
Severe disappointment in France
But the 1998 title fights in France also ended with injury-related disappointment for Ronaldo, who had meanwhile found his way from Cruzeiro Belo Horizonte via PSV Eindhoven and FC Barcelona to Inter Milan, where he won the UEFA Cup in 1998. Knee problems did not allow for any exhilarating performances at the “World Soccer Player of the Year” in 1996 and 1997, in the final the weakened attacker suffering from strong public pressure failed and went down with Brazil against the domestic “team tricolore” 0:3.
“I’ll be stronger than ever”
What followed can confidently be described as the “sufferings of Ronaldo”. Knee pain, pause, comeback: In November 1999 the patella tendon tore and surgery became necessary. The return on 12 April 2000 took only five and a half minutes after his first leg in the cup final against Lazio Rom. The operated tendon did not hold. It was a small consolation for the dribbler that the Paris knee specialist Professor Gerard Saillant, who performed both operations, announced that Ronaldo could “continue his career”. But “Il fenomeno”, as he was “baptized” by the Inter fans, was fierce: “I do everything I have to do to return to my old performance. I’ll be stronger than ever.”
No sooner said than done – even if muscle problems kept slowing down the 26-year-old and even endangered his third participation in the World Cup. If it wasn’t for national coach Luis Felipe Scolari, who firmly believed in Ronaldo and gave him a free ticket for Japan and South Korea. Ronaldo collected the play practice Scolari demanded shortly before the big tournament, and Carlos Dunga, captain of the 1994 world championship team, already suspected what Ronaldo could be capable of: “If he continues like this, this World Cup can become his World Cup”.
“Even if he can only claim 70 per cent of his performance, he is still one of the most dangerous strikers in the world,” added former national coach Mario Zagallo, “and this time Ronaldo should live up to his laurels.
Ronaldo at the summit
“King of the finale. Utilized Kahn’s slip cold. Dangerous over the entire distance. Before the change by the German goalkeeper, he could be stopped twice at the last moment – grade 1”. The Brazilian had arrived at the football summit after his 2-0 final victory over Germany, now a “real” world champion and also the top scorer of the World Cup with eight goals.
Back from Asia, the interplay between Inter and Real Madrid overshadowed its sporting brilliance. “What do we want with a man who’s somewhere else with his mind. Real gets the best striker in the world,” Inter President Massimo Moratti let his top striker gnash his teeth.
World Player of the Year for the third time
Ronaldo, who in the meantime also rose to mega-star status with his move to the “Royal” (300,000 jerseys of the new Real striker had already been sold in January 2003), slid into a minor sporting crisis, but his achievements at the 2002 World Cup were nevertheless honoured at the end of the year. For the second time since 1997, he was named “Europe’s Footballer of the Year” and was the first player to win the official FIFA title “World Player of the Year” for the third time after 1996 and 1997.
“You could say it’s been an incredible year. Hollywood could make a film about it or books could be written about it,” said the attacker, who impresses with his highly explosive combination of dynamics and technical precision.
ambassador of the United Nations
At Real, Ronaldo not only finally got the jersey with the number “9”, he also played and scored at a consistently high level. As special ambassador of the United Nations (UN) for aid projects in the Third World, he also caused a sensation away from the big football. “Ronaldo and friends” against “Zidane and friends” – the two triple world footballers also shone at “Spiel gegen die Armut”.
World Cup record scorers until 2014
The fans also wanted to see the exceptional striker brilliant at the 2006 World Cup in Germany. But Ronaldo was part of an overall disappointment.