At the height of his fame, he had scored 350 career goals in club football, against the top teams in the world, and an astounding 62 goals for his country Brazil, in 97 international appearances against top clubs in various lucrative football extravaganzas.

Basic facts

Birth 1976
Country: Brazil
Position: Striker


Cruzeiro (1993–1994)
PSV (1994–1996)
Barcelona (1996–1997)
Inter (1997–2002)
Real Madrid (2002–2007)
Milan (2007–2008)
Corinthians (2009–2011)


Club football: 384 matches, 280 goals
National team: 98 matches, 62 goals

Ronaldo in Real Madrid 2005.


Enter Ronaldo, soccer player extra-ordinare

Nicknamed Le Fenomenon, by the Italian Press, at the young age of 20, in 1996, he won his first FIFA World Soccer Player of the Year, solidifying his claim as the most valuable footballer of the period.

Shortly thereafter in 1997, he won the prestigious Ballon d'Or, Player of The Year trophy. That's a token sampling of the mega highlights of a remarkably humongous football career by a man described as a phenomenon. And yet the awards and statistics he received at the height of his peak, hardly tell the whole story.

With a second FIFA Player of the year win in 1998, anyone who played against Ronaldo, or saw him in full flight, rampaging on the pitch, saw an unstoppable dribbling genius, not as elegant as Neymar, or as creative as Messi, Ronaldo's awesome talent was his Pamplona-style bull charging at a red-shirted matador.


Ronaldo at Cruzeiro

Now, a full-fledged professional, he went on to score 44 goals in 47 games as a striker for Cruzeiro, helping them to be crowned their first Copa do Brazil, in 1993.

But his rapid rise as an indispensable striker in Cruzeiro did not earn him an automatic transfer to fabled club Flamengo, the league leaders at the time. Dejected, he stuck with Cruzeiro where he honed his skills and led them to numerous wins in Minas Gerais State.

PSV Eindhoven

In 1994, after getting selected to join the world cup team, and denied a chance to play, he was advised by Romario, a teammate, and another superstar at the time, to join Dutch powerhouse, PSV Eindhoven.

During his first season at PSV, he scored 30 goals. While attracting huge crowds during the second season, he suffered a knee injury, which kept him on the bench for long stretches. But in 1996, after recovery, he led PSV to win the Dutch Cup.

Barcelona and Inter

During the 1996/97 season the two football giants in Europe at the time, Barcelona, and Inter waged a fiercely fought battle to woo Rinaldo to their side. And at the end, it was Barcelona who forked the then most expensive player fee of $19.5 million. And brimming with confidence, he did not disappoint.

He went on to score a season best of 47 goals in 49 games. Many fans who cheered at every goal scored, equated his outstretched arms to the statue of Christ that faces Rio de Janeiro.

It was at Barcelona where Ronaldo was at his physical peak and demonstrated awe-inspiring football wizardry. He led the Catalan team to win the UEFA Cup, and Copa del Rey and the Spanish prestigious cup Supercopa de Espana. He also bagged the La Liga top scorer award with 34 goals in 37 games, in 1997.

In 1997, Ronaldo was arguably the greatest footballer on earth and Italian club Inter Milan paid him a staggering $27 million to switch from Barca to Inter. It was at Inter where his knack for scoring and his dribbling skills earned him the nickname "il Fenonemo." Or the Phenomenon. Using his enormous strength, close control, and fast footwork, he dribbled past three to four defenders to emerge stealthily on the other side, to either set up a colleague or score himself.

Real Madrid

The move to join Real Madrid in 2002 was disappointing. Although he was hugely popular with Madrid fans at Bernabeu, he failed to win a single European Cup winner's medal, as he slowly fell out of favor, and was at pains to justify the massive $46 million transfer fee. His then coach at Real, Fabio Capello, never hid his disdain at his star player's increasing lethargy and weight problems. During several key games, he chose less talented but reliable Dutchman Ruud Van Nistelrooy to front Ronaldo. But still, he helped Real win the Spanish Super Cup, and also La Liga, in 2003.

AC Milan and Corinthians

The move to AC Milan in 2008 was fraught with bad luck. While playing for the Series A powerhouse, he ruptured his left knee tendon. There was speculation that his career was over. But in December of that same year, fully recovered, he left for Brazil.

In December 2008, Ronaldo was greeted with excitement by his home side Corinthians, in Sao Paulo. But his stint was less spectacular. He continued to suffer from multiple leg and knee injuries as he continued to gain weight.

International Career

The Brazilian World Cup fiercely competitive selection panel considered Ronaldo talented enough to appear for the country in three FIFA World Cups, in 1998, 2002 and 2006.

During the 1998 World Cup, he suffered a convulsive attack on the eve of the match. After much agonizing about his physical state, he was deemed fit to play 72 hours before kickoff. But his game never showed the sparkle he was known for. And France won the match 3-0.

At the 2002 FIFA World Cup, he scored a total of 8 goals, and earned the Golden Shoe Award, as the games leading scorer. And at the 2006 World Cup, he managed to score 3 goals. This made his world cup scoring total 15.

What is Ronaldo doing currently?

Ronaldo is now aggressively campaigning towards a poverty-free world. And as at April 2015, he played in a Match Against Poverty game, at the St. Etienne All Stars International Tournament that attracted a cast of former football big names.

“The Match Against Poverty”, a brainchild of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) was created in 2003 to raise funds to help special development projects aimed at reducing poverty in marginalized areas of the world. And organizing friendly football matches, aided by UNDP Goodwill Ambassadors, Zinedine Zidane, and Ronaldo, two well-known celebrity footballers, has been a major revenue source.

By Rosa Nelson


Image sources:
David Cornejo