Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima, better known simply as Ronaldo, is often considered as one of the greatest football players of all times. Originally from Rio de Janeiro, he started his career at a very early age playing for the carioca club São Cristóvão FR, where he earned his nickname of “Ronaldinho”.
At the age of 14, he was signed by former Seleção player Jairzinho for USD 10 thousand, and Jairzinho then sold him to EC Cruzeiro, from where he was called up to be part of the Brazilian U17 national team. Despite the team’s poor showing during the 1993 World Cup, Ronaldo managed to stand out and be the leading goalscorer of the event, with 8 goals scored.
With this feat, he soon turned professional for EC Cruzeiro at the age of 16, and almost immediately afterwards had an offer of USD 500 thousand made by Internazionale Milan for his signature – an offer that was turned down by the Minas club.
Move to the Netherlands at the age of 16
The following year, he was the leading goalscorer of the Minas Gerais State Championship, with 22 goals scored, and was snapped up by Dutch team PSV Eindhoven for USD 6 million. At this Dutch club, even though he could not communicate with his teammates for not speaking the language, he was the leading goalscorer of the local championship, netting a total of 30 goals.
In spite of the knee problems that would cost him his career already starting to show, Ronaldo was sold to FC Barcelona in 1996 for USD 20 million.
Thanks to his excellent campaign (17 goals in 20 games), Internazionale paid a fine of USD 32 million to have Ronaldo on their team, and Ronaldo did not let them down: he scored a total of 14 goals in 19 matches, that also earned him the title of FIFA Player of the Year in 1996 (at the age of 20, thus becoming the youngest player to win the prize) and then again in 1997, and the Golden Ball Award of France Football magazine in 1997.
In 1998, Ronaldinho won the UEFA Cup. At this point, due to his brilliance in play, he was better known in Europe as “Ronaldo Phenomenon”.
His knee was his Achilles’ heel
However, unfortunately the following years were not good for Ronaldo. Between 1998 and 2002, with the worsening of his knee problems and the convulsion incident during the 1998 FIFA World Cup, he spent most of his time either on the bench or in the process of medical recovery.
It was only in 2002, that the unforgettable campaign with the Brazilian National Team in the World Cup put him in the headlines again. This was also when he received the award of FIFA Player of the Year for the third time.
Ronaldo also played for Real Madrid and AC Milan before returning to Brazil, where he played for a few more teams before ending his career in 2011, at the age of 35, alleging hypothyroidism and strong physical aches and pains.