Ronaldo, the best centre forward in world football in the last 20 years, has announced his retirement from football at the age of 34.
The outstanding striker has called time on a glitter-laden, injury-hampered career, which saw him score over 400 club goals, for clubs of the stature of PSV Eindhoven, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Internazionale and AC Milan, bag 62 goals in 97 matches for Brazil, including a record 15 goals at three World Cups for the selecao and be named as FIFA World Footballer of the Year on three separate occasions.
“It’s very hard to leave something that made me so happy,” said Ronaldo today.
“Mentally I wanted to continue, but I have to acknowledge that I lost to my body.”
Ronaldo began his career at Cruzeiro as a 15-year-old, having been spotted playing in the streets by a Brazilian legend, the 1970 World Cup winning winger Jairzinho.
Two years later, the 17-year-old Ronaldo made the move to Europe with Dutch side PSV Eindhoven, after being a non-playing member of the Brazil squad at USA ’94.
The skinny striker, with the explosive pace, deft touch and sublime finishing ability, went on to score 30 goals in his debut season in the Eredivisie, before a knee injury, which would become the bane of the Brazilians career, interrupted his second campaign.
However, despite the injury, in the summer of 1996 Ronaldo made the move to the Camp Nou, joining Barcelona under Head Coach Bobby Robson.
The Brazilian sensation spent only one record-breaking year at the club, as he smashed goalscoring records, bagging 47 goals in 49 matches for the Blaugrana (including perhaps the best goal of the decade with his unbelievable individual effort against Compostela), leading to him being named the youngest FIFA World Player of the Year.
He then traded in Spain for Italy as he joined Inter for a world-record fee of £19m, and he soon repaid the clubs faith with 25 goals in his debut season, whilst Inter supporters called him “Fenomeno“.
However, then came perhaps the most controversial moment of the strikers career, the watershed moment when seemingly everything changed.
Having been the star turn at the ’98 World Cup in France, where his goals had fired Brazil to the final, he was found on final day in his hotel room by team-mate Roberto Carlos having apparently suffered a seizure.
He would go on to play in the final, having originally been left off of the team sheet, but looked helpless and like a lost soul as two Zinedine Zidane goals and one from former Arsenal midfielder Emmanuel Petit gave France a 3-0 win.
A succession of knee-injuries would then go on to destroy the big part of the next four years of the player’s career, until he gained his retribution for that fateful night in Paris.
Stepping onto the pitch in Japan/South Korea in 2002, the skinny, fresh-faced teenager had been replaced by a more bulky, heavier, yet still as devastating striker.
His goals, and partnership with the other two R’s, Ronaldinho and Rivaldo, hoisted Brazil against their opponents on the way to the final in Yokohama.
And in Yokohama, after four gruelling years largely filled with rehabilitation and injury tests, Ronaldo found his redemption.
Two goals in the World Cup final defeated Germany, earned Brazil their fifth World Cup triumph, and put Ronaldo back on top of the footballing world once more.
He emerged from the Far East as the tournament’s top-scorer and earned him a move to Los Galacticos with Real Madrid, where he would team up with world-class contemporaries such as Raul, Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo and later David Beckham.
He became a great favourite with the Madridistas, before a final European move to AC Milan in 2007, where he would only participate in 20 matches before returning to Brazil with Corinthians in 2009 – the fresh faced youngster who left 16 years beforehand, having been replaced by a weightier, bulkier, more static yet, still as goal-hungry striker.
His dream of taking Corinthians to the Copa Libertadores ended in the competitions opening round last week, and it is with a sorrow to those fans and a humbleness that Ronaldo leaves the footballing world.
However, the great memories of the most feared and complete striker of his generation live on and that is something that fans of football worldwide will cherish forever.