Ronaldo: mercurial talent or missed opportunity

Posted: February 15, 2011 in Football

Too often commentators wheel out the term “legend” when someone retires.

For Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima however, it is the only word fit to describe a man who won almost everything the game has to offer. But as a neutral one cannot help but feel that his talent was not totally fulfilled.

Anyone who has on their CV both Milan clubs as well as Real Madrid and Barcelona is a little bit special.

At domestic level he won two league titles with Real Madrid, the Cup Winners Cup with Barcelona in 1997 and the UEFA Cup with Inter Milan a year later, as well as countless of other honours and personal accolades.

Even when well past his peak he helped himself to a league and cup double with Corinthians in 2009.

He simply loved scoring goals. And 326 of them in 466 appearances showed that he was not bad at doing so.

It is probably though at international level he will be best remembered.

Brazil often appeared invincible with him in the team. In the 1990s the team was easy to analyse but often impossible to stop. Dunga marshalled the midfield; Rivaldo provided the flair; Ronaldo put the ball in the net. Easy.

He is the leading scorer in World Cup history having amassed fifteen goals in the three finals he played in, to leave himself one ahead of Germany’s Miroslav Klose.

Despite the incredible success Ronaldo had, we can greedily ask ourselves what might have been, had his career not been littered with injuries.

A knee injury whilst playing for Inter Milan in 1999, coupled with several botched recovery efforts, saw him lose nearly three years playing time before successfully returning to win the 2002 World Cup.

And the longer his career went on the more his fitness became an issue as he went onto become a shadow of his former self.

“I wanted to continue, but I can’t. I think of an action, but I can’t do it the way I want to. It’s time,” said Ronaldo on his retirement.

“Ronaldo has retired from football…1 of best to ever play the game – injuries prevented him being best ever. gonna have a minutes silence…” Rio Ferdinand tweeted on hearing the news.

Unfortunately it is impossible to talk about Ronaldo’s career without mentioning the one night which sadly he will always be remembered for: 12 July 1998.

Ronaldo’s goals had propelled Brazil into the World Cup Final against hosts France. The match was billed as Ronaldo vs. France.

What happened next is often talked about but has never been fully explained.

What we know is the first Brazil team-sheet was submitted by coach Mario Zagalo 70 minutes before kick-off and Ronaldo was amongst the substitutes. But half an hour later another sheet was admitted and he was back in the starting XI.

The Brazilian team never warmed-up before kick-off and were resoundingly thumped 3-0 by a Zidane-inspired France. Ronaldo’s performance was particularly anaemic and he wasted his only real chance by thumping it straight at Barthez.

Rumours immediately spread of rows in the dressing room, poisoning and love affairs as the general public tried to fathom how things went so spectacularly wrong.

The official reason later given was that Ronaldo had suffered seizures the night before, but was cleared to play by the team doctor. Right or wrong, it does not explain the pre-match chaos which ensued.

“We lost the World Cup but I won another cup – my life,” said Ronaldo later when asked about the whole affair but it is hard not to allow the dramatic events to overshadow his great career.

As sad as it seems more people will remember Ronaldo for his various breakdowns rather than what he actually was. A legendary scorer of goals.

  1. Rob says:

    Quite hilarious the psychological aspects of football to those in England. Because of the mediatic rise of Cristiano Ronaldo in that country, the Real Ronaldo has subconsciously ceded into the background of Brits.

    “As sad as it seems more people will remember Ronaldo for his various breakdowns rather than what he actually was. A legendary scorer of goals.” This is typical. HE WILL BE REMEMBERED FOR HIS GOALS. Only in England, where Big Ron didn’t play could such a thought even be fathomed. The English generally don’t watch football outside their own leagues thus the extent of Ronaldo’s impact is not fully felt. The odes from the media and fans around the world to his retirement have been nothing but extraordinary. In Argentina, the country which has an intense rivalry with Brazil, the debate is that the two true greats are Maradona and Ronaldo, not Maradona and Pele. And that “greatest striker ever” is a fact, not an opinion.

    The Insular English will remember him for the breakdowns rather than the goals, but the world will remember him as their favourite player and as The Phenomenon.

    I have to quote a kid from Cameroon “If Ronaldo played in your shitty premier league, you would have built towering statues for him”

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