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Can Ronaldo prove us wrong again?

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Tim Vickery | 07:41 UK time, Monday, 18 October 2010

It is one of the ancient battles of sport, the struggle between talent and the ravages of time. And it's being fought out as the Brazilian Championship reaches a thrilling finale.

With eight rounds to go - and at least four clubs still in contention - one of the big questions is this: Can he really do it again? Is Ronaldo capable of staging yet another extraordinary comeback?

The previous one came when he joined Corinthians of Sao Paulo, the most popular team in South America's biggest city. Surely now he had suffered one knee injury too many. He was all washed up, a bloated figure living on his reputation. But then he proved us all wrong once again by spearheading Corinthians to last year's Brazilian Cup.

But that was supposed to be the aperitif. The main course was to come this year.

Winning the cup qualified Corinthians for the Copa Libertadores, South America's equivalent of the Champions League. All their local rivals had won it but Corinthians had yet to reach a final. Putting that right in 2010, the club's centenary year, was the dream of every Corinthians fan.

Ronaldo in action for Corinthinians during the Copa Libertadores in MayRonaldo in action for Corinthinians during the Copa Libertadores in May. Photo: Getty Images

But they were knocked out early, losing on away goals to Flamengo of Rio. Rescuing the centenary year - and centenary years are taken very seriously in South America - would mean winning the domestic championship, or at least finishing high enough to ensure qualification for the 2011 Libertadores.

And they would have to do the hard work without Ronaldo. He played - and scored - in the opening round of the championship back in May but then did not reappear until managing an hour in a match at the end of August. Then 45 minutes - and a goal - on 8 September. Then nothing.

His body was in rebellion. Some, especially in Europe, labelled him a dilettante. But this is the man who has scored more World Cup goals than anyone else in the history of the competition - 15 - many of which have come after he forced his way back from injuries that threatened to end his career.

I am reliably informed that Ronaldo's current weight problem is, in part, a consequence of the medication he needs to soothe his battered knees.

As far as Corinthians were concerned, the absence of Ronaldo hardly seemed to matter. They were even able to shrug off the loss of coach Mano Menezes, who took charge of Brazil shortly after the World Cup. They were on top of the table, apparently in a two-horse race for the title with Fluminense. A place in the Libertadores seemed certain.

But then the wheels fell off. A big part of the problem was the sheer number of games. Out of sync with the rest of the planet, Brazil's ludicrous football calendar is especially insane in World Cup years. While everyone's attention was on South Africa, the local championship shut down for five-and-a-half weeks, leaving a backlog of fixtures to plough through in August and September.

Brazilian squads are not deep enough to permit the kind of rotation practised by European clubs, so, after 15 rounds in seven weeks, players are exhausted, overworked and picking up injuries.

Corinthians suddenly collapsed. In six games, they picked up just two points from two draws and four defeats. They slipped to third - and would have been lower were it not for the fact that their rivals also dropped points.

Coach Adilson Batista was sacked. Delegations of supporters went to the training ground to either encourage or intimidate the players into greater efforts.

Come the crisis, send for Ronaldo. He has always thrived on this type of pressure.

The 2002 World Cup is perhaps the greatest example. Injury kept him out of the entire qualification campaign. Without him, Brazil were a shambles, fortunate even to get to the tournament. With him, it was a different story. He happily took on the responsibility for leading the attack. Rivaldo, so lost without Ronaldo, blossomed in his shadow as Brazil won all their games.

Ronaldo in his primeRonaldo in his prime at the 2002 World Cup. Photo: Getty Images

But that was more than eight years ago. Ronaldo still wants the responsibility and will gladly take the burden off his team-mates. But is he still physically capable of doing so?

The evidence of Sunday's comeback match was inconclusive but promising. Despite intense heat - over 33 degrees - he managed to play the full 90 minutes away to Guarani. It was not the most mobile performance you will ever see from a centre forward but the striking thing about late-career Ronaldo is that when it matters he consistently manages to get in front of the defender.

He was unlucky to have two early goals disallowed. The first, forcing home after a Roberto Carlos cross, was presumably not given for hands. The other, a gorgeous first-time finish with his left foot, was wrongly ruled out for offside.

In the second half, Ronaldo produced a superbly timed run to latch on to a Danilo cross from the left but, with the goal gaping, put his header just wide.

Heading was never Ronaldo's strong suit but laying off intelligent passes for midfield runners is part of his skills set. It is something he has developed during his career, especially when playing alongside Cristian Vieri at Inter Milan forced him to learn how to drop deeper and supply through balls. At Corinthians, he works well with new international midfielder Elias, who likes to break into the box.

Despite Ronaldo's presence, the game with Guarani finished goalless - and Corinthians have now gone seven matches without a win.

Next up is the derby against traditional rivals Palmeiras followed by the trip to Rio to face Flamengo, the club Ronaldo grew up supporting and where the fans feel betrayed by his decision to sign for Corinthians.

These are occasions which Ronaldo will relish - as long as he can show that the battle between talent and the ravages of time can still be decided in his favour.

Comments on the piece in the space provided. Questions on South American football to vickerycolumn@hotmail.com, and I'll pick out a couple for next week.

From last week's postbag:

Q) I was wondering if you watched the Mexico-Venezuela friendly this week. Venezuela pulled out a 2-2 draw, even though they played most of the match a man down. Seeing as the last time these two teams met Mexico ravaged them 4-0, is this result a sign of good things to come from La Vinotinto or just more signs of decline from El Tri?
Diego Pacheco

Mexico might not have been great post-World Cup but this as an excellent result for Venezuela. They didn't create too much - both goals were long-range free kicks from Juan Arango - but, as you say, they were down to 10 men after 23 minutes. Lots of positives - defensive discipline, the handling of new keeper Hernandez. Seems to me that they are getting an interesting squad together with a number of options and they are growing in confidence. It is amazing to think how much progress they have made.

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    Ronaldo in his prime was an awesome thing to watch - the way he took on entire defences singlehandedly and steamrollered through them was breathtaking.

    Good luck to him if he has an Indian summer / fairytale ending to his career - he deserves it after all the injuries he's had.

    The only problem I had with him was his ridiculous haircut in the 2002 World Cup - as illustrated in the picture above.

  • Comment number 2.

    Ronaldo was a truly great striker - in his prime I'd argue he was a cross between Romario and Eusebio- he had Romario's clinical finishing and flair combined with Eusebio's pace, power and dribbling. Some people might prefer the deft technical touch of a Van Basten or the sheer force of a Batistuta/Shearer/Drogba but for my money Ronaldo is the greatest striker of the last 20 years.

    His brilliance is just shown by the fact that arguably due to injuries he never reached his full potential!!! Even after his knee ops he was a brilliant player, and he was still scoring goals when overweight at the 2006 World Cup.

  • Comment number 3.

    It is great to see legendary players like Ronaldo (& Verón) still playing back in South America for the love of the game, when they could easily retire to a life of wealth and luxury (or earn even more millions playing in some Arabian vanity league or the MLS).

    In Argentina the "old men" Martín Palermo and former Derby County player Esteban Fuertes both bagged great goals over the weekend.

    There is no shortage of attacking talent coming from Brazil and Argentina, but the pick of the crop are nabbed by European clubs every transfer window, leaving the door open for the older generation to fill their boots.

    http://southamerican-futbol.blogspot.com/

  • Comment number 4.

    Ronaldo was the best striker I have ever seen with my own two eyes. Full stop. The power of Drogba, the pace of the fake ronaldo and the dribbling ability of messi, along with the best eye for goal since gerd muller. An absolute machine!

    And totally agree with #3. At least hes playing somewhere for the passion where there is passion for the game. This man doesnt deserve to be playing in the UAE.

  • Comment number 5.

    For a while in the late '90s we were lucky enough to have a few strkers on the world stage who were absolutely world-class practitioners of their trade. Shevchenko, Shearer, Raul and obviously Ronaldo were an absolute joy to watch (feel free to add others from this period). All players who went about the business of scoring a hatful of goals but in completely contrasting fashions.

    Ronaldo managed to combine the best elements of the other three to become something close to the complete striker. For any player to come back from the torment of the '98 World Cup final, in which a young lad was used as a porn by those in authority, and the subsequent career threatening injuries to produce performances as he did in 2002 was quite remarkable.

  • Comment number 6.

    Apologies, the 'porn' in the second para should obviously read 'pawn'. Arguably one of the most embarrassing typos I've ever made!

  • Comment number 7.

    The REAL Ronaldo is the 2nd best player I have ever seen .. 2nd only to Maradona.

    I'd place him 3rd overall with Maradona 1st and Pele 2nd. I've seen Ronaldo do things that no other player could, all at blistering pace.

  • Comment number 8.

  • Comment number 9.

    One of the best performances I have seen ever was a Europacup match between PSV Eindhoven and Bayer Leverkusen. I think PSV lost the match in the end, but the young Ronaldo, who had just joined PSV singlehandedly ridiculed the German defence, scoring 3 goals. He is one of the greatest ever.

  • Comment number 10.

    Hi - interested in your comments on the Brazilian league.... I went to the Sao Paulo - Santos "classico" yesterday whilst on a trip to Brazil. Great game with a last minute winner for Sao Paulo to win it 4-3 with 10 men. But I couldn't get over the crowd - the stadium was under half full for an important local derby (still a great atmosphere though). Is this the norm?

  • Comment number 11.

    ronaldo is arguably the worlds greatest ever striker-if he had not had his injury worries, this place would probably have been undisputed.this guy used to run riot is Serie A, and just remember the Italian greats of the 90s, maldini included-he even said ronaldo was the best striker he ever played against.and so did buffon.ronaldo thrives in high pressure environments.and another mark of quality-look how overweight he is(whatever the reason), and he still has touch and class that puts many other modern day to shame.whats even more of a shame is that he will retire next year in december.at least he will be one of the greatest ever, if not the greatest striker to grace the beautiful game.

  • Comment number 12.

    The most gifted striker of the past 20 years - by some distance.

    I had the privilege of watching him live for the first - and, alas, only - time for Inter v Roma at the Olimpico in Easter 98. Although genuine greats such as Aldair, Cafu, Francesco Totti, Javier Zanetti and Giuseppe Bergomi all played in that game, Ronaldo was still heads and shoulders above anyone else, deciding the game in Inter's favour by two outstanding goals.

    Then came the World Cup, the pre-Final breakdown, the injuries etc. Although he did make a magnificent comeback to become top scorer at Japan/Korea 02, and subsequently arguably also the most decisive of Real Madrid's Galacticos, I never quite felt he was the irrepressible force of those early days again.

    Either way, he belongs to an elite club of truly legendary players never to have won the UEFA Champions League (Roberto Baggio and Lothar Matthäus are others that come to mind): it would be great if he could gain some consolation by lifting the Libertadores before his career comes to an end.

  • Comment number 13.

    I hope these last few years are worth it to him. I feel he is going to end up in great pain for the rest of his life and barely able to walk.

  • Comment number 14.

    When working in Madrid whilst he was at Real, heard they had a problem with him eating all the magnum icecreams at the training ground. They had to lock the fridge whilst he was there, which suggests he lacked self discipline.

    Defenately rubbish in the air hardly seem to even try to get his head onto crosses, couldn't jump.

    Best game I remembered him for was his hat trick against Man U, but he had plenty of room in that game because Man U were having to attack as they conceeded three goals in the first leg. It was Figo, Raul and Figo who opened up Man U in the first leg when they were trying to contain Real.

  • Comment number 15.

    This article is a good example of my problem with the way Ronaldo is treated by most the media in Brazil:
    He earns the highest salary in the history of Brazilian football by far, misses nearly 90% of the games of the team in the Brazilian league, can't lead it's team past round of 16 in the most important tournament for them, does his best to pretend Corinthians problems have nothing to do with him, and then is praised for just touching a football or scoring a disallowed goal. Heck, I swear I've seen him being praised for diving once. No player deserves so much leniency, and no player has ever got it.
    Romário, for example, despite being a superior player to him overall and being top scorer of the Brazilian league at 34, 35, and 39, still got worse treatment.

    If he does return well, scores many goals, and helps his team wins the league, then he wouldn't be doing anything other than his job.

  • Comment number 16.

    What a player - truly amazing!! Him, and Messi, (Sorry too young to remember Maradonna) are the best players I've ever seen, just a shame injuries stopped him from probably becoming the greatest ever!!

    Ronaldo had pace, power, skills, dribbling skills,and could play as a team!! He proved in himself in everywhere he played!!

  • Comment number 17.

    The few of you above who attempt to put a dampner on Ronaldo & Tim's article, why?
    Celebrate one of the greatest footballers of his generation, arguably of all time as others have done.
    As a boy (I am just about a man now for those of you that choose to do the math), I remember waiting in my mum's car whilst my sister had her weekly piano lesson, watching the clock, worrying I won't be home in time for any Wednesday night Champions League game Ronaldo was involved in. Whether it be for Barca, Inter or Madrid.

  • Comment number 18.

    Mengo2008 @15

    Completely agree with you, his fairy tale comeback in 2002 has more or less set him up for the rest of his footballing life. Ronaldo will always be an enigma to me, I personally think the zenith of his career was the one season he had at Barca under Sir Bobby, he was an absolute beast and should've gone on to greater things than the still great things he did achieve. People point to injuries but I think his lack of self discipline had a lot to do with it and contributed to his fragile state. On natural gifts alone he was by far the best of his generation but I always think of what could've been with him. Funny you mention Romario as I've always felt that I'm in the minority of those who'd choose Romario over Ronaldo if I had to pick a best XI from my TV viewing lifetime.

  • Comment number 19.

    At his peak, an absoulte machine. Some of his goals during his season at Barcelona were incredible and only injuries prevent him being considered as one of the very best of all time.

    Away from football, Ronaldo's incident in the hotel room a couple of years ago with 3 'females' was hilarious.

    http://footballfutbolfitba.wordpress.com/



  • Comment number 20.

    Will never forget the 96-97 season at Barca under Bobby Robson scoring nearly a goal a game in all competitions. The goal against Alaves when he ran 1/2 the length of the pitch was special - constantly getting hacked and opponents holding his shirt for then to cut inside and beat the keeper - quite simply the best season I've ever seen a player play at that level and considering his age to be performing like that at Barca.

  • Comment number 21.

    I would like to echo that the season he played at Barca was phenomenal, the best ever I have seen from a striker.

  • Comment number 22.

    For me he is the greatest Striker I have seen in my lifetime and is streets ahead of any other. With Ronaldo he had everything pace, power, accuracy, dribbling all of the highest quality where as many strikers only had the mantle of goal scorer, Ronaldo was so much more he was an absolute destroyer of teams.
    My fondest memory of him was in the Champions League, We(United) had Real at Old Trafford and he ripped us to shreds, we went out that night on away goals and it was dissapointing but it was equally a pleasure to watch such a player perform, he is quite rightly the only opposing player to recieve a standing ovation from the United support.

    Glad to see he is still playing, he will not get back to his best as injuries have taken their tole but he has had a great career and hopefully he will finish on a high in Brazil

  • Comment number 23.

    I've been in the UK for many years now but being a keen Corinthians supporter I have been following Ronaldo very closely in these last years. I echo the hails and am very happy to see so many posts praising this truly great player - his feat in 2002 returning from a horrific injury to lead Brazil and score wonderful goals - the one against Turkey in the semi-final was amazing, the 2 in the final against Germany, no comments - is nothing short of 'phenomenal' to use an adage that Ronaldo is associated with.
    I am critical of Brazilian clubs spending over the odds to hold on to players but Ronaldo's signing was a coup for Corinthians in 2009 - it massively increased the club's profile and boosted its revenue in the following seasons, making it the most profitable side in the Brazilian League in terms of sponsorships and gate fees - with the upside of Ronaldo actually playing well in the first season.
    I truly did not know that medication is partially to blame for his weight problems, but it is a consolation as I confess I have been disappointed with his failure to achieve fitness this year. I most definitely join all the hopers that Ronaldo will make a last push and lead Corinthians to the League this year, it would be a more than fitting end of career.

  • Comment number 24.

    #1
    You cant slate him because of a hair cut...The guy was a great player.

    The only reason he had that haircut was so his son could pick him out amongst all the yellow shirts on tv during the tounament

    All in all though, good article, legendary player

  • Comment number 25.

    Ronaldo is the best player that I have seen in my lifetime. I remember, even at the 1994 World Cup, all of the talk about the 17-year-old on the bench who was (as many others have been claimed) the 'New Pele.' His season at Barcelona is probably the best individual season by a player in football history; it just seemed as if an adult had walked onto a boys game in the park - nobody could stop him. I think that it says a lot that even a phenomenon like Messi last season, or Ronaldo at Manchester United a couple of seasons ago only matched Ronaldo's (Brz) levels, rather than exceeded them. The impact caused by the levels he could play at was immense. While other modern greats, like Zidane, Figo etc. may have been more consistent, to me at least, nobody to hit the same heights as Ronaldo did.

    It is a genuine football tragedy how his career was affected by injuries and, to varying extents, his vices. While I believe it almost diminishes his titanic achievements on-field to do so, just imagine what he could have been without the aforementioned problems. As for my favourite memory of him, it has to be the memory of Colin Hendry spending the first 20 minutes against Brazil in '98 chasing Ronaldo's shadow; how he didn't score in that game is beyond me (although I'm glad he didn't!).

    I do have one question Tim. In your opinion, how will Ronaldo be remembered/rated by the Brazilian and/or South American football world? Where do you see him being ranked? I appreciate that you cannot compare eras very easily, I'm just curious. However, after reading the current issue of World Soccer magazine, I'm guessing Romario won't rate him better than the 3rd best ever Brazilian player.

  • Comment number 26.

    One of the greatest players of the modern game, on Zidane comes to mind as a player who would be on a par with Ronaldo. Truly amazing. How good he could have been were it not for all of his injuries we will never know. Despite this he will go down as one of the greatest players ever. A couple of people have already mentioned his performance at Old Trafford. I can't think of any other opposition player ever playing so well at Old Trafford.

    His season at Barca was incredible - 34 goals in 37 games as a 20 year old. There are loads of clips on YouTube of him. I suggest anybody who may not be familiar with him checking these out. Messi eat your heart out.

  • Comment number 27.

    22. At 12:19pm on 18 Oct 2010, Red_Devil_85 - Sheldon Coopers Therapist wrote:
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Great point and this was in 2003, when he was supposedly past his best.

    Look at his record at Madrid during his time there, amazing.

    And that night at Old Trafford. Man Utd had an unbelievably good side, top class. However, this man was another few levels above all that, and ahead of his team mate Zidane.

    SAF singled him out for praise which also says a lot

  • Comment number 28.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 29.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 30.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 31.

    I think Wayne Rooney has already shown himself to be a better player and at the end of his career will be considered a far better ALL round player than Ronaldo.

    Wayne Rooney was world class at 16 years of age. Remember that GOAL against Arsenal.

    I would have Rooney in my team ahead of Ronaldo at his peak any day of week!!!!

  • Comment number 32.

    15 - i think you do have a point, i understand entirely where you are coming from - with its current lack of big name idols, ronaldo is fawned over by the media,and this piece is inclined that way.

    all i can say in my defence is that i'm supposed to be writing with a british based audience in mind - and over there in recent years some of the media coverage tried to turn him into a figure of fun - a gross lack of respect for the all time world cup top scorer.

    the fact that he still (just about) in action, still putting his body through it, shows that he's a bit more than the playboy stereotype - but thanks for your comment, which has supplied some necessary balance.

  • Comment number 33.

    @31 maradona10_handofgod, you must not have read the article. It is about Ronaldo, not Cristiano Ronaldo.

    Otherwise you can't be serious.

  • Comment number 34.

    I remember watching Ronaldo many years ago playing from Brazil against Chile. I think it was perhaps a WC qualifier or maybe a Copa America game (its so long ago now i forget). It was one of the best displays by a single player I have ever seen. Since then in my mind Ronaldo would make any all time 11. At his best he was unstoppable. The best i've ever seen (i'm too young to remember Maradona)

  • Comment number 35.

    #24 That's an interesting explanation for "that" haircut!

    Actually, I've always fancied the notion that it played a part in Brazil's win. As soon as the Germans saw him enter the field of play looking like that, they knew in their hearts his confidence was so immense there would be no way of stopping him. And so it proved.

  • Comment number 36.

    15 - i don't think i can agree with the romario comment, though. romario was fawned on every bit as much as ronaldo after he came back to brazil at the start of 95 - with disastrous results for his own career.

    for 2 years - 95 and 96, romario didn't even care, but still got an easy ride. pride wounded by the rise of ronaldo in late 96, romario came back refreshed in 97 - his talent is beyond question, but as he got older his lack of application took its toll - injury kept him out of the 98 world cup, the knock out stages of the libertadores in 2001. he kept scoring goals - but it was grim statistical accumulation - few of them were important.

    on pure achievment i think ronaldo has to be considered superior.

  • Comment number 37.

    Ronaldo, what a striker!... with Romario and Batistuta, easily the best strikers I've ever seen.

    Who was the best? At this level they were all great and amazing to watch, just enjoy the memories.

  • Comment number 38.

    we all love ze Ronaldooooooooo!

  • Comment number 39.

    @31 "I would have Rooney in my team ahead of Ronaldo at his peak any day of week!!!!"

    LOL, I know you can't possibly be talking about the real Ronaldo but this is still too funny a comment to ignore.

    Ronaldo at his peak would've steam-rolled past Rooney, Ferdinand and Co on his way to scoring a hat-trick. (for other teams, just replace the names of the players, but the result would've been exactly the same, at his best, Ronaldo was unstoppable)

  • Comment number 40.

    Re: my comment @ 31

    I actually know this...the REAL Ronaldo was touched by greatness and a remarkable player who achieved great things and changed his style of play mid career was still a special goal scorer.

    Everyone remembers the final for the wrong reasons but the games before he was player of the tournament!!

    I just wanted to do an impressiona of the English Media or an Alan Shearer impression.

    Good blog Tim.

  • Comment number 41.

    @40 LOL, good one

    I guess for the english media Rooney was more Maradona-like, so Ronaldo would have to be compared to someone like Crouch ;)

  • Comment number 42.

    41

    haha crouch good one - exactly my thoughts!!

    No wait Crouch was better because he plays in a more physical league....Ronaldo couldnt hack it in england - aye right!!

  • Comment number 43.

    Ronaldo was imo the only player who could have been compared to Pele, like for like. Unfortunately, we'll never know if he would have attained the same heights, since his career was sadly blighted by terrible injuries. Nevertheless, he managed to scale impressive heights, leaving an indelible mark in the memory of various posters here. But he is paying a heavy price. I don't know if his clubs ever resorted to medication to bulk him out, as with so many other players, but as Tim points out, he has been on medication due to injuries and pain control that have left their inevitable ravages on his body. When he plays now, you can clearly see that the mind is several steps ahead of those of his opponents, and it's just a question of whether, and for how long, the body can correspond. I just hope that he doesn't end his playing career as some kind of freak show, or spend the rest of his life in pain and with difficulty in just getting around. He has given us all far too much to deserve that. It does raise the question of the price players pay though; the other side of the equation, at a time when we're looking ever more closely at the stupid sums of money so many players receive for giving relatively very little back - especially when compared to the doctors, engineers and other workers making valuable contributions to keeping the world functioning.

  • Comment number 44.

    He's just the greatest striker we've seen in the last 20 years, and by far the most skilled.
    Anyone that can see him playing TODAY can notice a superior tecnique, that only few players had. His precision and coolness in front of the goal is disturbing, with both feet.
    It's a shame he can't do better with such phisical problems.

    Obs.: Today's players have a bigger stage to expose themselves and, for this reasen, are overestimated. The only player that can be considered in a similar level of Ronaldo (at his peak) is Messi - although is a different kind of player. Cristiano is arguably almost there, but he lack's something. The rest is pure marketing, You Tube clips player's.

  • Comment number 45.

    perhaps i am exaggerating, but ronaldos dribbling skills were, imo, on par with some of the very best dribblers ever.but when you couple that with devastating speed, acceleration, shot power, accuracy, technique, and on top of that an ability to score equally well with both feet.he also was able to pick out passes and assists with ease-i remember him playing with van nistelrooy at real.his only weaknesses (if any) were heading the ball, and perhaps stamina because of his legs.but its the injuries to his knees that have tainted his career.its a crying shame we didnt get to see him play for longer....

  • Comment number 46.

    36. At 1:38pm on 18 Oct 2010, Tim Vickery - BBC Sport wrote:
    15 - i don't think i can agree with the romario comment, though. romario was fawned on every bit as much as ronaldo after he came back to brazil at the start of 95 - with disastrous results for his own career.

    for 2 years - 95 and 96, romario didn't even care, but still got an easy ride. pride wounded by the rise of ronaldo in late 96, romario came back refreshed in 97 - his talent is beyond question, but as he got older his lack of application took its toll - injury kept him out of the 98 world cup, the knock out stages of the libertadores in 2001. he kept scoring goals - but it was grim statistical accumulation - few of them were important.

    on pure achievment i think ronaldo has to be considered superior.

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Cheers Tim, but this debate is a non starter.

    Ronaldo was by far and away the best player on the planet between 1996-1999. He recaptured his brilliance between 2002-2005.

    Bottom line? A fare superior player than Romario. The all time top goalscorer in the world cup. Romario was there in Italia 90 and did nothing. He didn't shine at all. He was good in 1994, but an expert finisher, never a brilliant all round game like Ronaldo.

    8 goals in a single world cup finals is something I don't think will ever be equalled again. In France 98, minus the final of course, he was the best player in the tournament, and truly destroyed Holland in a great semi final.

    The next year he was a phenomenon in the Copa America 99.

    But as many have recognised it was amagical 12 months at camp nou as a very young man when he showed how amazing he was. The type of goals he notched, could never have been scored by Romario, while the ones Romario got, Ronaldo would have snapped up too.

    As far as I recall, Romario had one great season at Barca, and one average one? Flopped at Valencia? So really are we judging his career on one world cup, and good seasons in the eredivisie and brazil?

    On this criteria, Dirk Kuyt may aswell be the best dutch player to ever have graced the planet

  • Comment number 47.

    This is becoming one of the most exciting Brazil Championships of all time. In addition to the Corinthians story Tim has outlined, you have:
    Fluminense - who invested more heavily than anybody else, with an excellent coach who built arguably the strongest team, on paper at least, but have suffered from injuries.
    Santos - the team that enchanted the country in the first half of the year, storming to the state championship and the Brazil Cup (after the final was delayed till after the WC SA2010) and are now chasing the "triple crown", despite guaranteed presence in next year's Libertadores and losing Robinho and Ganso (severe injury) and selling Wesley and Andre.
    Internacional - Libertadores champions and looking forward to the World Club finals, but still chasing the title, despite having qualified for next year's Libertadores.
    Cruzeiro - the team that 'made' Ronaldo and this year have quietly chipped away at the Flu/Coringa lead and currently head the table.
    Atlético PR - many people's tip for a relegation spot at the start of the season, but under Carpeggiani have moved up the table and are only 8pts off the leaders.
    Grémio - fierce local rivals to Inter, they had an awful first half to the season, but have gone on a storming run that has lifted them to within striking distance of the title. And they are the form team at the moment, with all their rivals dropping unexpected points lately.

    So, with 8 games to go, there are now 7 teams with genuine claims to be title contenders, despite most of the season being just a 2 horse race, as Tim pointed out.
    Meanwhile, the battle to avoid relegation is providing another intriguing contest, as all the teams in the 'danger zone' have been picking up valuable and often very unexpected points. The first division is very evenly balanced this year, and bears many similarities to the EPL, possibly serving as an interesting prelude, as well as offering interesting lessons about just how exciting the league system can be.

    Tim, do you think the fact that the first criterion in Brazil for separating teams that are level on points is number of wins (ahead of goal difference) makes any significant difference? Is it a system worth introducing in Europe?

  • Comment number 48.

    But was he better than Crouch?

  • Comment number 49.

    oops, forgot to mention that Carpeggiani has recently moved to São Paulo, so it will be interesting to see how the team perform without him at the helm.

  • Comment number 50.

    Tim?...or anyone else with a genuine knowledge of south american football, do you know how good Wellington Silva is? I know we've just bought him and i've seen a couple of youtube videos but obviously there always going to show him at his best....can anyone shed some light on how good this boy actually is?

  • Comment number 51.

    Wow! I'm astounded that anyone could think of comparing Wayne Rooney to Ronaldo, particularly given Rooney's current vein of form. I'm a Rooney fan and would love to see him capitalise on the 'star at 16' potential that he has yet to fully realise, but a comparison with Ronaldo at this stage of Rooney's career is ludicrous. Let's not forget that at Rooney's age, Ronaldo was already regularly destroying the defences of some of Europe's premier clubs, as well as scoring the sort of goals that you'd only expect to see on FIFA- seriously- go on you tube and see how often he carried the ball from a few feet inside the opposition half before unleashing a devastating mix of pace, power and deftness to leave opponents in his wake. He had also travelled to two World Cups and was, even given the 'ghost' final of 98', and with the possible exception of Zinedine Zidane, the most effective and exciting player on show. I've seen some wonderful strikers in my time, but none of them had the range to their game that Ronaldo had. Compare Wayne Rooney's World Cup record with that of Ronaldo- any player who wants to stand the test of time has to have at least one outstanding World Cup, in that respect Rooney is not fit to polish Ronaldo's boots.

  • Comment number 52.

    this year's brasileirao is again reaching for another exhilarating finale no doubt. this is what league football should be about. unpredictable, exciting and good football. today cruzeiro sits top who knows, maybe the great tricolor sao pualo will be leader at the end ;)

  • Comment number 53.

    I was fortunate to be at the Barcelona game against Compos in Santiago de Compostela where Ronaldo scored possibly his best ever goal. He got a well deserved standing ovation from the whole stadium, I knew at the time I was witnessing something special.

    here's the clip:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NC57WLJYmUE

  • Comment number 54.

    and without doubt in his prime o fenomeno ronaldo was unequalled as a forward. one of the best strikers in football of all time and arguably the best player of our generation along with zizou

    he's already indicated that his career end is near, so what kind of odds he's fighting against remain to be seen. the highest point of going out as such would probably be getting timao to be brasil champions or copa libertadores champion

  • Comment number 55.

    Just found this clip: "All 47 goals scored by 20 year old Ronaldo (Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima) in his debut season for Barcelona back in 1996-1997."

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TFhBJIICxi0

    probably best without the music mind.

  • Comment number 56.

    Mr Vickery,

    How about a article about Romario's new political career? Something which looks fascinating but outside Brazil I guess few know it all worked out.

    ******

    The fatter of the Ronaldo's however produced the finest performances I've seen of a striker in the 1998 World Cup, prior to the disaster that was the final.

    I'm hoping the Burger friendly Ronaldo will become a Elvis impersonator in his time after retirement, allowing the great Brazilian of cinema Walter Salles to make a Raging Bull esque biopic about him. It'd be great I tell you.

    *****
    How long is Ganso expected to be out? He looks pretty special from what I have seen. With Kaka sidelined, it looked like it was Ganso's time.

  • Comment number 57.

    ganso has an acl problem last i heard he's out until end of january at least. hope he doesn't lose his speed he's key in new selecao

  • Comment number 58.

    @31

    !>?!?!?!??!!!!?!!?!?!?!!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!??!!!>!?!>!>!!?!?!>!??>?!>>!>?!!>!?!>!?!>!?!>??>>!>?!>!?!>!?!?!>!

    Democracy - Guarenteed to drive others mental

  • Comment number 59.

    Tim, I’m surprised you didn’t mention the stick that Ronaldo (and a number of other Corinthians players) got from some of their own fans during an open training session last week. They sang: “Ronaldo, vamos jogar. O Coringão não é o seu spa!” ‘Ronaldo let’s play. The ‘new Corinthians training centre’ isn’t your spa’. The comment was obviously aimed at the number of games he’s missed. But perhaps it was also because he recently acted as a ‘tour guide’ for a feature that Globo TV did on Corinthians new training centre. I think some of the fans took umbrage to what they perceived was Ronaldo’s somewhat blasé attitude to missing so many games.

    Still, as many have said. He’s still a fabulous player and if he can get fitter, Corinthians are still in with a shout for the title

  • Comment number 60.

    He's the Brazilian David Hirst!

  • Comment number 61.

    That's just the harsh side of football, one minute you're the greatest the next you're the fattest.

    Hope you come back stronger as you always did.

  • Comment number 62.

    @47 BLRBrazil... have you been signed as the marketing man for the Brasileirao? insightful but so optimistic.

    Currently the leader of the league has 60% of points. 60% in the end of all 38 games would represent around 70points - so let's assume that is the target for a team to win the title. Even such target being very low, of the 7 teams you mentioned, two (Atletico and Gremio) would need to win ALL their remaining 8 matches to have a chance, and Inter and Santos would need to win 7 and draw the other. Let's face it, that rules these teams out (maybe, just maybe, Santos would have a chance if they somehow spring to dominance with their young stars, but very unlikely - Inter will be thinking about the Club World Cup really, no chance there).
    So you have only 3 real contenders - and I, as a Corinthians fan, am not unfortunately holding my breath for a reaction from our recent dismall run. So in the end you have only two likely winners - Cruzeiro or Fluminense. The rest is you trying to talk up the Brazilian league.

    By the way @52 brasiliero83 maybe it's unpredictable, maybe it's exciting, but good football? not really.

  • Comment number 63.

    there's a nice documentary on youtube made by a fan, the opening scene is Zinedine Zidane who many rate as the best player in the last 20 years, what he says about Ronaldo, tells you all you need to know about the talent of the man and how great he really was. Eon's ahead of anyone else I think it was including the great Zizou himself. Fantastic player, my favourite player and the best I've ever seen though a young Argentine is slowly carving a reputation of his own, he's yet to pull off performances like those in 1998 and 2002 where Ronaldo practically carried 2 Brazilian teams to finals.

  • Comment number 64.

    Furthermore, Ronaldo's greatest trait isn't his pinpoint finishing, or his unflappable composure in front of goal, or his superior technique, or his devastating pace, silky dribbling, intelligent movement. It's just his sheer determination to come back, he always does, it's what he does best, and for that, for that only, i consider him the best player to ever grace the game.

  • Comment number 65.

    you are being way too objective 'alexAD' :)

  • Comment number 66.

    Years ago I heard that the reason Ronaldo suffered so badly with knee problems was that when he was with P.S.V, the surgeon who operated on it botched it. Is there any truth in this?

    My abiding memories of Ronaldo are from the 98 World Cup where up until the final he was quite simply miles better than anyone else and in 2006 when he was clearly overweight but still managed to score a cracking goal against Ghana to equal or pass Gerd Muller's record. Of all his attributes, I think it was his acceleration combined with his dribbling that impressed me the most.

  • Comment number 67.

    The guy was an awesome player, his goalscoring record at the top end of the game is second to none, and had all of the attributes of a complete striker. Top top quality

  • Comment number 68.

    'I am reliably informed that Ronaldo's current weight problem is, in part, a consequence of the medication he needs to soothe his battered knees.'

    This is interesting, but can Tim please explain a bit more? Thanks.

  • Comment number 69.

    the Best player i ever saw live in his prime, a superb player and he was a delight to watch.

  • Comment number 70.

    Oque houve com o ronaldo,foi que antes da copa do mundo ele mesmo perdeu a vontade de joga futebol ao ver que não estava em nivel,como achou que estaria ao fim da copa do brasil ano passado,de ser convocado e isso mais varias lesoes fizeram com que ele não esteja hoje como um dos principais jogadores do brasileirão.Mas,vamos ver nesse final.Uma vez fenomeno,sempre fenomeno,mesmo com 120 kg a mais...

  • Comment number 71.

    #70 ingles, por favor, we can't cope with these foreign sounds.

    Good article, it will invariably cover old ground, so I hope there's something to educate us about new players coming soon (I realise there was the cracking Neymar one a few weeks back).

    Everyone is being far too fair and objective this week, and I'm afraid I can't criticise the fat one too much myself, he was just awesome at his peak.
    I'd compare him to Torres in today's game, a goalscorer and creator, clinical yet stylish, the dribbling marksman. Surely someone can argue about this comparison????

  • Comment number 72.

    At his best Ronaldo was for me a football genius. Contrary to what some may believe, I think deep down, he is also a man of tremendous pride, who cares deeply about his impending legacy. That criticism will have hurt.

    The late Sir Bobby Robson described him as having a delightful mentality. This was particularly so in the context of the appalling injuries he had suffered and the brutal tackling to which he had been subjected.

    I understand Ronaldo held Sir Bobby in similarly high regard and was very upset at his passing. That is more than can be said for the alleged treatment of Sir Bobby by one British footballer.

    At his core, Ronaldo is clearly an appreciative and charming man, who perhaps doesn't always come across the right way. Perhaps we can all be guilty of that from time to time?

    I think there is another chapter to be written and I for one look forward to seeing this Brazilian genius raging against the light.

    Ronaldo - Thank you for your dignity and brilliance.

  • Comment number 73.

    @Dr Wang, i think torres will never reach the heights ronaldo did.he may be similar but in no way can i consider him on par with ronaldo.remember ronaldo did some of these miraculous things as a teenager, and in his early twenties, torres had a couple decent seasons is all.however, torres at his peak does indeed have the qualities you mentioned-just ronaldo had all those, and more to boot...

  • Comment number 74.

    Please,please Tim cange your profile picture.You look like a pimp,I can forsee you saying "hey baby,how you doing".:)
    Other than that,another good article.

  • Comment number 75.

    My best Ronaldo memory? Him sobbing on the bench after Inter bottled the title against Lazio. May 5th 2002. Beautiful.

    On a more serious note, I always like to see players I grew up watching continue to make an impact on the game. I'm sure there's a few more great moments left in Ronaldo yet. His talent will not fade, just like his waistline...

  • Comment number 76.

    Er, Mr Vickery

    Surely an article about the longevity of a sports person's career should contain the very relevant information about just how old they are!?

    Oh well, there's always wiki..!

  • Comment number 77.

    Ronaldo is the best player that I have seen in my life and the most underrated in the history of the soccer. Just to remember that by the age of 22 he was already a FIFA player of the year twice , best player in the World Cup 1998 ,
    best player in Dutch , Spanish and Italian leagues , the age at which current superstars just start to shine . . After that he suffered serious injuries and i don't think he was back to what he was supposed to be , the greatest player ever .
    He is season with Inter 97-98 was the best i watched from a player. He was able to perform one man show in a very defensive and tough league , he was like somebody playing against small kids.
    So good luck with R9 for the next few months which left in his carrier.

  • Comment number 78.

    Why are we so often deprived of the world's greatest strikers' best years?

    Ronaldo and van Basten springs to mind.

    That he is considered (one of the) best striker(s) of all time underlines how far ahead of everyone there has been.

    It makes me cringe when people talk about Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in the same breath as him. They are great players, but they are not realy in the same league (yet!).

    Had a cheeky bet that Ronaldo would be top scorer in the 2002 WC as well.. perhaps gives me rose-tinted specs with him!

  • Comment number 79.

    Sorry guys and my sincere apology , cause i forgot to mention players like Crouch , Bent and Andy Carrol who are far ahead of Ronaldo . Of course not to mention the golden Roony.

  • Comment number 80.

    #71
    An interesting comparison and my first thought is that Torres while a very awesome player in full flight on goal, lacks the drive, power and physicality of the early cream cake monster Ronaldo.

  • Comment number 81.

    76 - you're spot on, i should have mentioned ronaldo's age - 34 by the way. as i drifted off to bed it occurred to me that i might have forgotten to throw it in.

    74 - it's hard out here for a pimp - especially with the exchange rate as it is! the current photo is a holiday snap from last year - i'll get a new one done when i run into someone with a camera.

  • Comment number 82.

    1. At 09:28am on 18 Oct 2010, supershunsuke wrote:

    "The only problem I had with him was his ridiculous haircut in the 2002 World Cup - as illustrated in the picture above."


    Quite it looked like a misplaced mirkin

  • Comment number 83.

    Ronaldo is still my all time favourite player. He was simply unstoppable in his prime, and the fact he still continues to try shows that he still loves the game.

    The champions league game between Real Madrid and Manchester United is enough evidence alone.

  • Comment number 84.

    #73 and #80 - have to agree, especially about the physicality - suppose it was the trickery rather than the power that drew me to compare.

    Drogba has some similarities, a player who blossomed late, just imagine what he could do with an extra 5 years? #77 is also correct - Ronaldo was awesome from an early age - did he need protecting by being shielded away?

  • Comment number 85.

    one of the endearing things about ronaldo is that he is one of a dying breed-the striker with the ability and confidence to take the ball around the goalkeeper, in all situations.scored his WC goal vs. ghana like that, was pretty amazing.i think drogba is a fine example of a player who peaked late.ronaldo peaked early, but maintained that peak for a long time, slowly building more into his game,just a shame injury had to ruin his knees.and if as Tim Vickery says, his medication is partly to blame for his weight issues, that must be even more upsetting for him, knowing he could be in better shape.imagine, he is such an underrated striker yet still regarded as one of, if not THE best to grace the game.

  • Comment number 86.

    The most clinical finishers (in the mind of wang) go;

    5. George Weah
    4. Romario
    3. Ronaldo
    2. Dixie Dean
    1. Eusebio

    ?

  • Comment number 87.

    Hi Tim (Great blog btw!),

    Speaking of slightly chubby forwards I had in mind asking about the new FC Porto recruit, Walter, formerly of Internacional de Porto Alegre. He just scored a hat-trick against 3rd division minnows, do you reckon he'll set Europe on fire as Ronaldo did?

    Also, and I been wanting to ask this for ages, how rated is Falcao (FC Porto / Colombia striker) in South America?

    Finally, a question about a centreback - Sebastian Coates of Nacional - How good is he and can you discuss possible reasons to why he hasn't been snapped up yet to European football?

  • Comment number 88.

    Yet again brilliant blog Tim.

    Ronaldo what a phenomenan, superb player one of my all time favorites definately in the top 3, he along with romario have been the best strikers i have seen in the last 20 years. He was brilliant for barca, an his 1st season at inter was just breathtaking he almost single handedly won them the title in 98. A real pity regarding his injuries as he lost that blistering pace, but even after 2 severe knee injuties he came back to win the world cup and play magnificent football with the glacticos of madrid

  • Comment number 89.

    Luiz De Lima Ronaldo was one of the finest I've seen play. As many say his skill was, in his prime, simply world class pure and simple.

    His tricks mind boggling at times, his speed.....bullet you'd think and for everything else well those of us who've seen him play then there's no need to mention...simply watch videos of him.

    Pele and Ronaldo.....WOW!

  • Comment number 90.

    I'll always remember him for THAT hat-trick. Sorry Ipswich fans.

  • Comment number 91.

    @44 "The only player that can be considered in a similar level of Ronaldo (at his peak) is Messi - although is a different kind of player. Cristiano is arguably almost there, but he lack's something"

    Yes, Cristiano is almost there. He already has the surname and arguably the speed. Now all he has to work on is:

    - purchasing some talent and skill to stop being a predictable one-trick show pony.
    - buying some nerve so that he can perform on the big stage and at all levels for club and country like Ronaldo did. He may even get a discount if he takes Messi shopping with him as we all know how much Messi needs some of it too.

    what? you can't buy these things?... oh well.


  • Comment number 92.

    Dear Tim, thanks for four great composition!I become a Ronaldo fans since 1996,and I think that I have good luck,because I got such fortune to see the most beautiful dribble skills of the history.Yeah,that was Ronaldo of the 97/98 season in the Inter Milan,though he hasn't scored so many goals like when him in Barca,but he was really best at that moment.
    When he got knees injury in 1999 and 2000,we are heart-broken.
    When he played for Corinthians ,we all become Corinthians fans.In our country,Ronaldo always is biggest sport star!THERE are over hundred million people love Ronaldo forever in our country.
    For me ,Ronaldo was greatest football player since Pele.And I glad to saw he play good in yestoday

  • Comment number 93.

    @ 62: Alex, since this is a blog aimed primarily (though of course not exclusively) at Brits I thought they might be interested to know a little more about our current championship. And I'd love to be paid for doing so, but it isn't the case, unfortunately - and I don't think Tim's going to be passing the baton any time soon :o)

    I disagree with you about the calculations, since you do not take into account how much more unpredictable results have become, as the title/Libertadores and relegation battles hot up. If you take current points and add the points obtained in the last 8 games (an imperfect measure, but no worse than your calculation) you get:
    Cruzeiro 54 + 14 = 68 ; Grémio 46 + 20 = 66 ; Fluminense 53 + 12 = 65 ; Santos 48 + 13 = 61 ; AtléticoPR 46 + 15 = 61 ; São Paulo 44 + 16 = 60 ; Palmeiras 44 + 15 = 59 ; Corinthians 50 + 6 = 56 ; Inter 47 + 9 = 56
    which doesn't look too good for your Coringa. But if football results were predictable there would be no football lotteries. It's still wide open, as far as I can see.

  • Comment number 94.

    31. At 1:22pm on 18 Oct 2010, maradona10_handofgod wrote:

    I think Wayne Rooney has already shown himself to be a better player and at the end of his career will be considered a far better ALL round player than Ronaldo.

    Wayne Rooney was world class at 16 years of age. Remember that GOAL against Arsenal.

    I would have Rooney in my team ahead of Ronaldo at his peak any day of week!!!!


    You got the wrong Ronaldo. This is about the Brazilian Ronaldo, not the prima donna one that played for Man U

  • Comment number 95.

    Dr WANG - I wish you would THINK before you type.

    You compared Torres and now your saying Drogba is similiar to Ronaldo. They ARENT in the same league mate.

    Your a typical biased English premiership supporter that DOENST have a clue about real football or what was one of the top 10 players of ALL time.

    Next you'll be saying he was similiar in the air to Darren Bent. Please dont follows this article and go join a blog about what a great player Stuart Pearce was or how England will win the next world cup.

  • Comment number 96.

    oh and roy@94

    that was me taking the mickey. just doing an impression of the english media!! lol

  • Comment number 97.

    Someone help? Tim can you help?

    Have I just imagined this or did he once appear for Brazil in a tournament wearing "Ronaldinho" on the back of his shirt. If so, why? and at what tournament was this?

    I remember watching him vs England in the Umbro Cup of 1995 and thinking that this was the first superstar I would see from start to finish in their career, I'd say he lived upto a lot of my billing from that point forward.

    I also want to know when they thought he'd be a superstar. Was it at Cruzeiro? How well did he do there?

    Good i'd presume seeing as they put him in a wrold cup squad - what was the Brazilian reaction to that? Similar to Theo Walcott over here?

  • Comment number 98.

    i think at the 94 world cup?another ronaldo was in the squad, so he had ronaldinho on his shirt-"little ronaldo".this is why ronaldinho of ac milan has his name as it is.he should now be called Ronaldao (big ronaldo), and i mean that in a good way.they probably realised he was going to be a star at cruzeiro yes

  • Comment number 99.

    #95

    I thought he was just speculating and thinking about a comparison and it did make me think about Torres and Drogba along these lines. Nothing wrong with that at all, that's what a discussion is about.

    Anyway onwards:

    Ronaldo the best brazilian since Pele? For me yes as I think he had more to his game than Romario (also a great player) but for the all-time best IMO Diego had more to his game for me than all of them.

  • Comment number 100.

    @ 18;

    Ronaldo's "lack of self discipline" had nothing to do with his knee injuries dude.

    My personal favourite player of my time, this guy had everything. Only for the injuries I think he would have surpassed Pele and Maradona in the all-time greats list, because he was a combination of the best of both.

    Awful pity Romario wasn't available to play at France 98, as it would have taken the pressure off the boy. We would have swallowed our tongues with the treats on display.

    Legend.

 

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