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Crunch time for Ronaldo and Corinthians

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Tim Vickery | 15:39 UK time, Monday, 24 January 2011

More than eight years after combining to such good effect in South Korea and Japan, the 3 Rs of Brazil's last World Cup win are now all back at home playing for major clubs.

As discussed in this space last week, Ronaldinho has joined Flamengo. On Saturday, Rivaldo was snapped up by Sao Paulo. And, of course, there is Ronaldo at Corinthians.

Ronaldo is busy preparing for the final big challenge of his career. If all goes to plan, he will hang up his boots in December, at the scene of his greatest triumph, travelling to Japan to dispute another world title, this one of clubs rather than national teams.

It can only happen if Corinthians become South American champions by winning the Copa Libertadores in June. This, then, is a quest that could dominate Ronaldo's last year as a player. Alternatively, the dream could all be over by the middle of next week.

To reach the group stage of the Libertadores, Corinthians must get through a tricky qualifying round against Tolima of Colombia.

The sides meet in Sao Paulo on Wednesday. Next week's second leg is in the Colombian town of Ibague, the capital of the department of Tolima. It is a long trip to meet awkward opponents. Runners-up in the last Colombian championship, Tolima are a team who break at pace. And if Corinthians have Ronaldo, Tolima have a cutting edge of their own.

The Christian name of Wilder Medina hardly does him justice. He is one of football's late developers, having to shrug off a past of gang- and drug-related problems. Thirty next month, Medina made a big breakthrough last year, racking up the goals for Tolima. Slippery, good with both feet and capable of surprising the goalkeeper with his snap shooting from long range, Medina (pictured) is a real threat on his day.

Wilder Medina

Even if Medina hits form, Corinthians are firm favourites to win through, although early-season results can be strange, It will certainly be a nerve-wracking week for the Brazilian giants if the result goes against them on Wednesday. Failure to make the group phase of the Libertadores hardly bears thinking about it. It would be a blow to Ronaldo in his farewell year but a far bigger blow to the club.

Local rivalries do not just take place in domestic championships. In Paraguay, for example, fans of Olimpia ceaselessly taunt those of their historic rivals, Cerro Porteno. Olimpia have won the Libertadores three times. Cerro have taken part on 33 occasions without ever getting their hands on the cup. Campaign 34 is coming up this year - and to get it kick-started Cerro Porteno first have to overcome Venezuela's Deportivo Petare in the qualifying round. Nerves will be jangling in Asuncion over the next two weeks.

In Buenos Aires, San Lorenzo fans had to put up with years of baiting from their rivals over their lack of international titles. A decade ago, they managed a couple of wins in second-string competitions but the Libertadores still eludes them - to the delight of the other Buenos Aires giants, all of whom have claimed South America's premier club title.

It is a similar story in Sao Paulo, with the added spice that, unlike San Lorenzo in Buenos Aires, Corinthians are undoubtedly the biggest club, although the most supported team in South America's biggest city have never been champions of the continent.

Santos, those eternal upstarts from the nearby coast, have managed it. Sao Paulo FC have achieved the feat three times, too, more than any other Brazilian club. Traditional rivals Palmeiras have done it. But Corinthians never have - and until they put that right they will have to suffer the jibes from their local rivals.

Hopes were high that Ronaldo might carry them to victory last year but they went out on away goals to Flamengo in the second round - the same stage at which they fell in their two previous campaigns, 2003 and 2006. Both times they fell to Argentina's River Plate. The second of those defeats, which effectively ended the spell of Carlos Tevez with the club, was greeted by a riot as the frustration of the fans boiled over.

The two eliminations before that are probably even more painful for the club's supporters. In 1999, they lost on penalties to Palmeiras in the quarter-finals. A year later, they went out in the same way to the same opponents a round later - the closest they have come to grabbing the glory.

Ending the drought would be a fitting way for Ronaldo to round off his career. Corinthians, though, are going to have to do things the hard way.

Assuming they make it through the qualifying round, they will go into the most difficult group in this year's Libertadores. Guarani of Paraguay have little hope of progress but that certainly does not apply to Estudiantes, winners in 2009 and the reigning Argentine champions. And then there is another Brazilian heavyweight, Cruzeiro, Libertadores stalwarts who were beaten finalists in 2009. Only two teams go through to the knockout phase, so a big name is going to fall by the wayside.

For the moment, though, Corinthians would be foolish to let their thoughts stray beyond the immediate task of overcoming Tolima. They will have their mass support behind them but when they look at Tolima's frankly hideous red and yellow shirts, they will also see the green of Palmeiras, the white, blue and red of Sao Paulo, and the white and black of Santos. All three hope that Corinthians are defeated and Ronaldo's dream is ended almost before it has begun.

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

From last week's postbag:

Q) I noticed that Giuliano signed for FC Dnipro which seemed like quite a strange move. He was undoubtedly one of the hottest prospects in South America and could have signed for any number of top European sides. Why do you think he chose Dnipro? Could it be the money, football or the big Brazilian contingent in Ukraine? Like many other Brazilians in this league, I feel he may get stuck in a rut and not progress further up the ranks in Europe. What are your thoughts on the move?
Stuart King

A) He is one of my favourites, so I was a bit surprised and disappointed with the move. But it's not a case of choosing this club over other options in Spain, England or Italy. Dnipro came up with the money - and since Internacional make no secret of the fact that they plan to sell their potential stars, it was a done deal. One of the striking things about Giuliano is that he has made progress every year. If he can keep doing that, then I think he has the versatility and intelligence to prove himself with Dnipro and move on.

Q) As a Manchester United fan, I have been very interested to follow the progress of our young Brazilian players over the last couple of seasons. After the recent Tottenham game, many people have started to accept Rafael as our number one right-back. How are the twins viewed in Brazil? And what do you think of their chances of getting into the national team? Fabio was supposedly the better player before his move to Manchester but we haven't heard as much from him as I would have liked? What are your opinions?
Karl Golding

A) Rafael is in the Brazil squad, although he faces a real battle to displace Daniel Alves. No doubt about it, when they went to Old Trafford, Fabio was much more highly rated. He captained Brazil Under-17s and scored reams of goals from left-back, while Rafael was more of a steady figure on the other flank. United took them early because they would not be taught to defend in Brazil, where full-backs are often attackers. It could well be the case that it has been harder for Fabio to adapt to the more conservative role of a full-back in England. With Brazil U17s, he was not so much playing at left-back as from left-back, popping up all over the place. Also, first-team opportunities have been harder for him because of the form and presence of Patrice Evra. Long term, it is going to be fascinating to see how Fabio reacts to losing his place in the family hierarchy.


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  • Comment number 1.

    Great blog ever!

  • Comment number 2.

    I think it highly likely that he'll come out of retirement after "ending" his career. Either for a Middle Eastern club, or a European club with Middle Eastern financing.

  • Comment number 3.

    Ronaldo - greatest striker I ever sawed. That those two injuries robbed hims of his pace and 2 and a half years in his prime is the biggest tragedy football has ever seen. And I do mean that. Man had it in him to be the greatest player ever bar none.

  • Comment number 4.

    "More than eight years after combining to such good effect in South Korea and Japan, the 3 Rs of Brazil's last World Cup win are now all back at home playing for major clubs."

    Man, how time flies... They were brilliant though, arguably the international game's last truly great forward line.

  • Comment number 5.

    Thanks for a great piece once again Tim, but I have a question for you. As a Man U fan I was wondering how highly Anderson is rated by the Management set-up of Brazil. With Kaka recently coming back to the fore, will that be the end of Anderson's hopes of a decent run in the national team?

  • Comment number 6.

    "More than eight years after combining to such good effect in South Korea and Japan, the 3 Rs of Brazil's last World Cup win are now all back at home playing for major clubs."

    Man, how time flies... They were brilliant though, arguably the international game's last truly great forward line.

    What about the 4th R - Roberto (Carlos)? Is he still active?

  • Comment number 7.

    "Ronaldo - greatest striker I ever sawed. That those two injuries robbed hims of his pace and 2 and a half years in his prime is the biggest tragedy football has ever seen. And I do mean that. Man had it in him to be the greatest player ever bar none."

    I'm more concerned that you are old enough to remember him at his best (14 years ago) but write with the grammar of a 5 year old.

  • Comment number 8.

    @ 6.

    Bobby Carlos is indeed still playing.

  • Comment number 9.

    Ronaldo has been an immense player although now in his latter years not as effective, i still remember the champs league 1/4 final against united in 2004 i think?as a united fan i can say easily that he destroyed us in that match!a true legend of the game!!could he have handled it playing in the English league tho?

  • Comment number 10.

    You can see this game live on Premier Sports TV, sky channel 433. They are showing live weekly Copa Libertadores and 2 games a week from Argie league also

  • Comment number 11.

    At his best probably the greatest striker of all time and that's no exaggeration

  • Comment number 12.

    Good blog. Nice to hear about something other than the EPL.

  • Comment number 13.

    @7 "I'm more concerned that you are old enough to remember him at his best (14 years ago) but write with the grammar of a 5 year old."

    Do you mean "5-year-old"? Glass houses an' all that...

  • Comment number 14.

    seen a few of the young south americans showing a fair bit of talent. how long will it be until the likes of santos boys neymar (been mentioned a million times i'm sure) and paulo henrique make it across to europe?
    romario from vitoria's only 17 or so but is he up to scratch too? lucas piazon any good?
    and none brazilians, miguel medina and bryan rabello?
    are there many others to be looking out for too?

  • Comment number 15.

    @7 "I'm more concerned that you are old enough to remember him at his best (14 years ago) but write with the grammar of a 5 year old."

    Do you mean "5-year-old"? Glass houses an' all that...

    lol I knew I'd make one mistake that someone eagle-eyed reader would pick up on and make such a comment. I think "greatest striker I ever sawed" is an awful lot worse and highly indicative of falling education standards.

  • Comment number 16.

    It's always interesting to hear about football in South America. Given how many top-class players come from there it's a wonder we don't have a constant news stream coming across the Atlantic, but there you go.

    I was wondering; with the arrival of players like Luis Suarez and Alexis Sanchez in the big time, should we be looking forward to a long list of players coming out of the lesser South American nations? Chile, Peru, Colombia, Paraguay have all produced some fantastic players before. (Marcello Salas comes to mind.)

  • Comment number 17.


    how about Villa, Torres and Iniesta?

  • Comment number 18.

    no way can villa torres and iniesta may come close, but i wouldn't think so. ronaldo just had it all.speed, dribbling, shooting, left foot, right foot, and rivaldo and ronaldinho were great passers of the ball into space. having said that, iniesta is immense.not torres though, and not villa.

  • Comment number 19.

    *though villa is still a very good player.not a "great" though.

  • Comment number 20.

    7. At 5:14pm on 24 Jan 2011, electricmriain wrote:

    "Ronaldo - greatest striker I ever sawed. That those two injuries robbed hims of his pace and 2 and a half years in his prime is the biggest tragedy football has ever seen. And I do mean that. Man had it in him to be the greatest player ever bar none."

    I'm more concerned that you are old enough to remember him at his best (14 years ago) but write with the grammar of a 5 year old.


    The fact your post was only to highlight a failing in somebody elses post and offered frankly nothing in terms of insight and opinion makes me want to point out the saime in yours: 14 years ago (1997) certainly wasn't the time of Ronaldo at his best (given he was 20/21). Certainly there was alot more to come from Ronaldo in 1997, the highlight of which was probably the 2002 World Cup which he practically won on his own.

  • Comment number 21.

    Tim, a question:

    I see Gary Medel has signed for Sevilla. Will he be a success? I thought he looked decent for Chile at the World Cup, but frankly can't imagine him being better than Anthony Annan, who really excelled in South Africa and was apparently the club's other option for the holding midfield role.

  • Comment number 22.

    @4, 17, 18

    Spain's success I feel has been more down to an overall team effort and in particular their midfield. I feel even average strikers could score playing up front for them.

  • Comment number 23.

    @ 4

    Villa, Iniesta, Xavi, Torres and nearly every other Spanish player.

  • Comment number 24.

    @ 20

    World Cup 98 was the year where Ronaldo nearly won it on his own. In 2002 he was quality but he wasn't 10 times better than any other player in the world that year like in 98.

  • Comment number 25.

    Tim Vickery on South America: Best blogs on BBC none.

  • Comment number 26.

    @ 20


    Anyone will tell you that Ronaldo was at his best in his 1 year at Barca and the following season at Inter Milan and then the '98 World Cup that followed.

    That's 96/97 and 97/98 seasons which makes my assertion of 97 about perfect.

    By the time the 2002 World Cup came round he'd been injured for near enough 4 years and was not (quite) the same player. He was still a great finisher but the pace and dribbling had lost a bit of edge.

  • Comment number 27.

    What has happened to these giants of Brazilian football? They once had the world at their feet at the highest level of European football. Age might be a factor for the likes of Rivaldo and Ronaldo, but Ronaldinho? I could also mention Adriano and Robinho, who should also be in their footballing prime but are now back in Brazil. Such a shame. Fingers crossed that Kaka doesn't lose his head in a couple of years like these guys.

  • Comment number 28.

    #17 Although very versatile, Iniesta is arguably more a midfielder than a forward, and while Villa was excellent, Torres didn't really do himself justice at the World Cup: so I don't think they compare to The Three R's, no.

  • Comment number 29.


    I reckon they're all fond of a bit of a party and sometimes also the odd burger.

    Sometimes skill can't compensate for a bit of hard work.

  • Comment number 30.

    Ronaldo. He scored 47 goals in 49 games for Barcelona in one season. During his injury plagued career in Europe, he scored 272 goals in 305 appearances. He is without doubt the best striker football has ever seen.

  • Comment number 31.


    You've got him at 89% strike rate which is not the case. I'm not sure where those figures came from.

  • Comment number 32.

    Ronaldo - Best centre forward ever? Considering he was crocked for the majority of his career, when he was anywhere near fit he was devastating, 47 goals in his first and only season at Barcelona, a record fifteen World Cup goals including two in a final and not forgetting a brilliant away hattrick at Old Trafford.

    Rivaldo - Brilliant left foot, he was overshadowed by Ronaldo and that allowed him to be more effective in the Brazil team. He was also part of a Barcelona team that had Patrick Kluivert and Luis Figo in at the turn of the century that broke my heart as a Chelsea fan. Scored some great overhead kicks too.

    Ronaldinho - Personally, I think he meant more to Barcelona then, than Lionel Messi does today, primarily because he helped them through their transition period and turned them into a major force again. He was most of the time, unplayable, proven so when he scored the toe punt against my team Chelsea when there was a brick wall of defenders and Petr Cech in his way.

    The problem with all three was that they had poor natural fitness and they were lazy. Then again, if they run about everywhere would they have shown the brilliant skills they did?

  • Comment number 33.

    "although he faces a real battle to displace Daniel Alves"

    Has Maicon retired from inetrnationals? Shame if he has, but what a replacement to have!

  • Comment number 34.


    I wrote both sawed and hims on purpose. I was trying to portray a misty eyed fawning for times gone by. I'm not shakespeare but I assure you my grammer and syntax is more than adequate to hold a converastion with at least an 8-year-old.

    As for ronaldo again, he was the best. I was 13 in that 96/97 season and seeing him destroy entire teams on his own remains, alongside zidane at Euro 2000 and the current barca team, the highlight of my football watching years. I have never seen such a devastating combination of skill, trickery, pace, power and above all ruthelesness, since.

  • Comment number 35.

    #31 not quite that high but not too far off. Here are Fenomeno's league and int'l goal stats here:

    Years Team Apps (Gls)
    1993 Cruzeiro 14 (12)
    1994–1996 PSV 46 (42)
    1996–1997 Barcelona 37 (34)
    1997–2002 Inter Milan 68 (49)
    2002–2007 Real Madrid 127 (83)

    1994–2006 Brazil 97 (62)

  • Comment number 36.

    The Club WOrld Cups are hosted in Abu Dhabi now, i believe Tim

  • Comment number 37.

    Good to see so many positive responses about the topic of the blog rather than the grammar within the comments below. Should someone not take their issues with the "educashun" (geddit morons?) standards of our beloved state schools to a different forum? Apparently not it would seem!

    I like the point you raise about Fabio Mr Vickery. It will be interesting to see, what with the constant speculation that Pat-Rice Evra is likely to depart these shores for Real Madrid at some point in the future, whether or not Fabio is entrusted with the position at left back if this does indeed prove to be the case.

    I believe Maicon's days as an international defender are nearly over. Not to say he is not still a quality player (far from it), but when faced with pace (see Gareth Bale twice earlier this season) on the left flank he struggles to cope.

  • Comment number 38.

    36 - the world club thing returns to japan this year

    33 - maicon has not retired from the international game - he was talking the other day about getting his place back. looking to 2014, though, age is against him - he'll be 33.

  • Comment number 39.

    #36- the World Club Cup was in the UAE these last two years but returns to Japan for 2011.

    As Tim points out San Lorenzo is the only one of Argentina's "Big Five" without a Libertadores title, the club's full name Club Atletico San Lorenzo de Almagro has the initials of CASLA. The joke in Argentina is CASLA stands for Club Argentino Sin Libertadores de America! (Argentine club w/o the Libertadores of America.)

    CONMEBOL no longer is giving all of the top seeds in the Libertadores to Argentine and Brazilian clubs, they get half of the 8 seeds with the other seeds split among the other CONMEBOL nations (this year U. San Martin, Caracas FC, Liga de Quito and Atletico Junior) thus we see some unusually difficult groups this year such as Group 7, the one Corinthians could be in if they get past Tolima, with Estudiantes and Cruzeiro the 2009 finalists joining them. And Group 3 with Argentinos Juniors, Nacional (Uruguay), Fluminense and America (Mexico) is another tough group. Each of those are as difficult as any group I can recall since the Libertadores expanded about a decade ago. That should make this year's group stage very enjoyable to watch and much more interesting than the predictable group stages of the European Champions League.

    Soccer Futbol Forum:

  • Comment number 40.

    So Tim. Corinthians play in Colombia on Wednesday night and are due to face Mogi Mirim in the Paulistão on Thursday night?

    I presume the big guns will be on the flight to Colombia and it will be a reserve team that is put on on Thursday making a mockery of the State League. But that got covered last week didn't it.

    There might be some money to be made here.

  • Comment number 41.


    After a two year hiatus, they return to Japan this December.

  • Comment number 42.

    Great blog Tim!

    I wish there was more coverage of the Brazilian and Argentinian leagues in the UK. I would love to see the three R's back in their homeland and playing as regularly as possible. I think Ronaldinho should be a real hit for Flamengo this season. He isn't too old and if he can just get fit and motivated he will still be an asset to any side.

  • Comment number 43.

    Just like to say Tim, that you are now the only reason why I will visit BBC sport after the disgraceful decision to stop 606.

    Keep up the insightful, good work.

  • Comment number 44.

    Tim, the first leg is in Sao Paulo and the next week in Colombia.

  • Comment number 45.

    44 - I stand corrected - painstakingly copied out by hand all the Libertadores fixtures and got the order of this one wrong - apologies!

  • Comment number 46.

    I'd better own up to another mistake before some keen eyed Paraguayan spots it. Coming up is Cerro Porteno's 34th Libertadores campaign, not the 33rd as I stated (once again) in error.

  • Comment number 47.

    27- Robinho is at AC milan is he not?

  • Comment number 48.

    Tim, you often lament the way the south american leagues only tend to feature 3 categories of players; i) Very young up and coming players, the pick of whom are sold to europe almost immediately. ii) Journeymen pros iii) Veterans who have returned from Europe.

    Several top south americans have, in the last couple of years, returned home a bit earlier in their career, having already made their millions, seemingly still with a bit to offer - Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Robinho, Veron, Riquelme, Adriano, Cicinho etc (although I appreciate some of them have subsequently gone back across the Atlantic).

    Do you think it is even remotely possible that big names such as these could simulate sufficient foreign interest in South American football to drive up television revenues and allow clubs to hold on to their young players a little while longer? This would make the leagues stronger again, which could then generate more income and make the whole process self-sustaining.

  • Comment number 49.

    You have prolific strikers like Van Nistlerooy, Owen, E'to, etc, then you have GODLY strikers, of which in my lifetime, off the top of my head, there have been 2, Van Basten and Ronaldo, the latter in his prime probably with the added dimension of clinical finishing at lightning pace. The stats quoted above speak for themselves.

    I remember that United Real game. It was classic Ferguson at Old Trafford, where they might have overcome any opposition that night, including Real Madrid minus Ronaldo, but, unfortunately for United, with Ronaldo at that time, it was one sniff, one goal!

    I knew of someone who got an outrageous price on a double of Brazil to win WC 2002 and for Ronaldo to be topscorer. Brazil were struggling in qualifying, and Ronaldo's career was blighted by injury. Then he re-ignited that spark you were talking about last week Tim. The haircut, and the reasons for it, were pitiful though!

    Thank you for the Everything You Need To Know About The....Copa 3 minutes. A good read.

  • Comment number 50.

    Will Cerro Porteno ever avenge their heckling neighbours? Can Corinthians end their arduous wait? Is it conceivable that Ronaldo could lose enough weight to lift the trophy? Will they announce a winner in the Tim Vickery blog grammar championships? Maicon - too old at 33 for the 2014 World Cup? Does the scribing of an individual's age have to appear hyphenated in football article text format? Some tough ones there.

  • Comment number 51.

    Nice work Tim

  • Comment number 52.

    Excellent blog Tim

  • Comment number 53.

    Ronaldo is a player whom has graced football with all his skill and then his social life (remember the three lady boys??) Regardless of if he was over the peak 4 years ago. We should be thankful to have seen such a showman and the World Cup was a stage where he was the fool and the hero

  • Comment number 54.

    Nice work Tim! Glad to see some sports journalists out there can write about Brazilian footballers without taking potshots at their hairstyles and bad teeth (or maybe they just all work at the Guardian) :D

    I know this is probably the most cliched question ever, but I'm genuinely asking....

    Q: Right now, is there any Brazilian footballer who is close to Ronaldo's level of efficiency as a striker?

  • Comment number 55.

    Unarguably the best striker of his time if not all time and one could only dream to see as lethal a combination like the three R's. What i dont seem to understand is that why all the brazilian players fade off after such a short period at their best? With the exception of Cafu

  • Comment number 56.

    I was never really a fan after the way he walked away from Inter but its difficult to argue against the claim that Il Fenomeno is not the greatest striker from recent times, if not ever.

    Even when he was overweight and unfit he could still hit the target with pinpoint accuracy. I would say his best years were definitely at Barca and Inter though - easy to forget that if it were not for the referee scandal of the day that Ronaldo pretty much single handedly almost won Inter the league at a time when they were far from Serie A's biggest force.

    Ronaldo proved his greatness at every level and whether you like him or not, he was one of a kind. Few players can maintain such form even when massively unfit/out of shape.

  • Comment number 57.

    I once sawed a footballer. Got very messy.

  • Comment number 58.

    Nice blog Tim and I think its good for Brazillian football to have the big names back when they at least have something still to offer.

    Re the Ronaldo debate, there is no question in my mind he is the best centre forward I have ever seen playing when at his best. I remember watching him for Inter and thinking he was unplayable - at times the gameplan almost seemed to be 'give it to Ronaldo wherever he is and let him go' - this is not meant as a slight to the Inter team at the time, he was just that good.

    Considering his injury problems, his goalscoring record and achievements are amazing and had he not had those problems who knows what his career stats would have looked like.

  • Comment number 59.

    Ronaldo and Van Basten are the best 2 centre forwards I've seen in my career as a person. Personally, I think Van Basten shades it. Maybe not as quick as Ronaldo, he had a better all round game. Strangely, both players had careers blighted by injury.

    Also, I heard that when Bobby Robson was manager at PSV his front 2 was Ronaldo and Eidur Gudjohnson. Robson felt Gudjohnson was the better player but her broke his leg and ended up at Bolton and Ronaldo went on to Barca. The rest is history.

  • Comment number 60.

    Atletico Mineiro, Botafogo, Fluminense and Corinthians. Four of Brazil's big 12 clubs that have never won the libertadores

  • Comment number 61.

    Personally I have never seen a player who has excited me more than Ronaldo. I remember being awed by this icon of football and although I felt the same at moments with Ronaldinho, Ronaldo just had something special to separate him from the rest. Zidane was magnificent as well but Ronaldo even edges him in terms of his aura.

    Today we see the likes of Messi and C.Ronaldo but neither gives me the same feeling that the Brazilian did.

    Ronaldo made a generation fall in love with the beautiful game forever, I don't think we will ever see a player captivate the world in the same way he did.

  • Comment number 62.

    #59, I know what you mean Ottski. I should have said something along the same lines in my post. Ronaldo is/was more a direct runner, whereas Van Basten was more finesse, he had more tools in his toolbox, but then he didn't have Ronaldo's devastating speed. Both lethal, but in different ways.

  • Comment number 63.

    #9 "could he have handled it playing in the English league tho?"
    aaaahh a comedian in our midst – you know what I think he’d of been OK!
    3 times FIFA Player of the year
    2 time Ballon d’Or
    62 goals in 97 international matches
    Highest goalscorer in World Cup History

  • Comment number 64.

    Van Basten made goal-scoring look very easy, that was his great attribute and he was also a very graceful player with excellent technique. At his physical peak Ronaldo could win games on his own with his power, speed and close control.

    Neither was as good a finisher as Romario though. Romario is the best finisher I've seen in the game while I've been viewing it over the last 25 years, easily.

  • Comment number 65.

    #24 "World Cup 98 was the year where Ronaldo nearly won it on his own. In 2002 he was quality but he wasn't 10 times better than any other player in the world that year like in 98."

    Erm, you seem to be forgetting about a certain Frenchman. Possibly the greatest player ever? Yeah, well as much as I love Ronaldo and consider him the greatest out and out striker of all time, he wasn't 10 times better than Zizou in 98. Or ever. You must be mental.

  • Comment number 66.

    Tim, this question is several weeks late and you may have answered someone else with your opinion, but do you think that Eton College should reclaim its FA Cup titles as First Division titles, following Brazil's example of.. "redistribution of honours"? :)

    By the way, here's your appearance in Arena SporTV:

  • Comment number 67.

    Absolute beast of a player. Nearly all my favourite players in the 23 years I've been around have suffered from injuries. Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Robbie Fowler (some people will laugh but trust me, I saw him play in the 90s and he could have been one of the very best) it's a real shame. As much as I'd love to mention the Rauls, Christian Vieris and the Alan Shearers, the only strikers who really come close that I can remember are Batistuta, Henry and Ade Akinbiyi.

  • Comment number 68.

    I think Ronaldo could easily have done a job in the Premier League. The EPL differs from the other big european leagues because the game is based on strength and speed - things that Ronaldo had in abundance.

    Having only seen highlights of the likes of Pele, Maradonna, Cruyff etc, I can easily say that Ronaldo is the greatest player I have watched play the beautifull game. A true grest!

  • Comment number 69.

    Without doubt the great player I've ever seen. Pace in abundance, an acceleration over 5 yards that had to be saw to be believed, and even after the knee injuries, the skill he produced to beat an opponent would sometimes make my jaw drop to the floor. Add all that to deadly finishing on both feet and you have pretty much the perfect striker.

    I'm 23 so can't really remember Maradona (in his glory days at least) so Ronaldo is pretty much the only player I've ever seen who could skin a whole team twice, then dump the keeper on his behind and roll the ball in the net. Regularly.

  • Comment number 70.

    Ronaldo was without a doubt the best player i have ever seen and probably ever will see, and the frightening thing was he never even reached his peak either.

    He had blistering pace, skill, strength, control and the best i have ever seen at one on ones. The way he rounded keepers with ease was frightening.

    My favourate memory of him though was playing for Inter in a league known for it's defensive quality, when running at 4/5 players and all of them backing away because they was so scared of him skinning them. I think one of them was even Nesta who was no slouch at the time

  • Comment number 71.

    Have to agree with #64: greatest goalscorer of the modern game, without a doubt Romario De Souza Faria ! Van Basten was more a quality goal scorer than a quantity goal scorer (cfr. his 24 goals in 58 Holland games) and as an Internazionale fan, i can assure you that even in his prime he was capable of wasting enough glorious chances to drive the most ardent fan mad...

  • Comment number 72.

    He = Ronaldo of course

  • Comment number 73.

    RE the mailbox question about Rafael and Fabio. You make the point that Rafael doesn't have much competition for the right back slot whilst Fabio is up against one of the best left-backs in the world, it should also be made clear that when Fabio arrived in England he had just broken his leg. I know that was a couple of years ago now but it did put him 6-9 months behind Rafael in terms of his development. As you point out, they are being re-trained to become better defensive players and Rafael has had those extra months to get used to it. Fabio is sure to come good soon, and if Evra leaves for Real Madrid in the summer, which seems almost certain the way the media are talking, then Fabio will get his chance.

    Concerning the blog, Ronaldo was indeed great and unlucky with injuries but he was ruined by his lazy lifestyle. If he had kept in better physical condition he might still be playing in a top league right now. Still, he deserves to go out with a bang, so I am rooting for him and Corinthians. @27 both Robinho and Adriano now play in Serie A with AC Milan and Roma respectively.

  • Comment number 74.

    It's a toss up between Ronaldo and Geoff Horsfield for best player ever IMO.....

  • Comment number 75.

    Totally agree with you Tim that the fate of the brothers has been determined by the competition. It has been much easier for Raphael to supplant the ageing and violent Neville than for Fabio to stake a claim against the in-form Evra. Ironically, the inverse is true at the Brazilian team level, with Raphael up against both Maicon and Dani Alves, rated amongst the world's best at RB. Fabio's path to LB is much clearer, but hampered by lack of playing time at MU.
    Another thing holding Raphael back is his temperament, or more precisely his tendency to get red carded, either for dissent or some very impetuous tackles. He needs to work on this if he is to really blossom professionally.
    A question: are the two brothers able to play on the opposite flanks to the same level of efficiency? That, or the sale of Evra (which is being talked about in the media), seems to be the best option for Fabio to regain the ascendency.

  • Comment number 76.

    I would have to say that when it comes to strikers with great predatory instincts as opposed to ones that use the pace and power then you have to look at

    Ian Wright ... so many caps never won because of the Turnip Taylor, Ian Wright was at the height of his powers around World Cup 1994 Qualifiers and Alan Shearer while a regular couldnt at the time replicate his form at international level.

    Marco Van Basten ... The greatest European striker of the 1980s - early 1990's, injury robbed us of a great show man.

    Pele ... Need we say more, a different generation apart I know but its just so hard to find a player who had the all round ability that the greatest player of all time had.

    Maradona ... No offence but when you are caught out for drugs then it takes away every thing from a career you ever achieved because we dont know how long he had been on it for.

    Jurgen Klinsman ... If Carol Thatcher had a twin lol, seriously though his predatory skills really set him apart from contemparys like Voller and he proved his might when he skinned defences apart with his own skill

    Denis Bergkamp ... How can anyone not even mention the BA Baracus of football who cannot and will not fly. How much combination of skills was this man blessed with ?? Power, skill, grace, the hat trick aganinst Leicester was phenoamal, as a Manchester United fan, I was so jealous that the Gooners got him and we had amazing strikers but no Denis.

    Ruud Van Nistlerooy ... Another Dutch Destroyer, to come back from such an injury that finished off Van Basten and become even greater shows just how brilliant this striker is. He lived for goals and when you had amazing service from the greatest winger of all time, Giggs then its something really amazing and deadly for all opposition.

  • Comment number 77.

    Heres an intresting food for thought. How much do you think these players would be worth today if they were at the height of their careers today ??

    Bobby Charlton
    George Best
    Gordon Banks
    Johann Cruyff
    Ronald Koeman
    Ruud Gullit
    Michele Platini

  • Comment number 78.

    @ 6: Roberto Carlos is with Ronaldo at Corinthians, and scored directly from a corner in the club's first São Paulo State Championship game.

    Nice to see people have such fond memories of Ronaldo, which for me confirms that, if his career hadn't been plagued by injuries, he would've been a player to match Pele, on a like-for-like basis.
    Sadly, those injuries and the medicines used to counter them, had bulked him up to the point where his mobility is seriously compromised. It's a sad case of the mind being willing and able, and many of the skills still being there, but the body no longer able to correspond. Hopefully, he will have his moments, as when scoring a delightful goal to win the 2009 São Paulo State Championship, but he cannot carry Corinthians to the Libertadores title, unless they meet Brazilian teams all the way to the final and the CBF intervenes once again to win them a championship.

  • Comment number 79.

    Yet more fascinating insight, Tim - long may it continue.

    It's nice to take a look at some of the rivalry between "big" clubs in South America. I suppose, with most of the clubs being centralised, Buenos Aires has more "derby" games as such...?

    Karl Golding obviously doesn't read many of Tim's articles; I seem to recall a few weeks back, someone asked a very similar question about Rafael and Fabio. Perhaps it's just typical of a Man Utd fan, partially blinded by the red shroud of ignorance.

  • Comment number 80.

    @ 77: just for fun, I thought I'd humour you. First of all, one has to discount the stupid price RM paid for CR. He wasn't worth it then, and today's reality is very different. So, based on the prices being bandied about in the January transfer window, I'd say:
    Bobby Charlton - £45m
    Eusebio - £60m
    George Best - £65m
    Gordon Banks - £20m (only because keepers don't trade so highly)
    Johann Cruyff - £70m
    Pele - £90m
    Jarzhinhio - £30m
    Socrates - £40m
    Ronald Koeman - £30m
    Ruud Gullit - £55m
    Michele Platini - £50m
    All based on the notion that a player's value is a factor of their ability to bring money to the club and to change games. On that basis, I'd say the true present values of both CR and Kaká are in the low £40m range.

  • Comment number 81.

    I am not sure ronaldo was really all that lazy, it was just his injuries were so frequent he lost his motivation and suffered from depression. Which is why at 2002 he thought he had a point to prove and was magnificent again, he lost a good part of his excess weight and was back to his best but more injuries came and by then i don't think he had anything else to prove to himself. He could almost get away with it on auto pilot by then because he was such a natural finisher. The effects mentally of these things have to be understood as people sometimes only see the money they make and not the people.

  • Comment number 82.

    Ronaldo will always be a great but to a lot of fans of Brazilian football the golden era was the 1970 team. Even a lot of people say the team of 1982 was the greatest to never win a cup

  • Comment number 83.


    You're right, Robinho is at Milan now. Though as I recall he did spend the latter half of last season on loan at Santos from Man City. I wouldn't be all that surprised if he ends up in Brazil again in the near future. His record suggests that he has the potential to nosedive like the other players I mentioned if he once again begins to struggle with his motivation and temperament.

  • Comment number 84.

    @83 - Adriano too is on the proverbial "shoogly peg" at Roma. He seems to have gone back to the bad old days - I don't think he's scored this season, and all parties are making noises about an imminent return to Brazil for him too.

  • Comment number 85.

    78 BLRBrazil
    " but he cannot carry Corinthians to the Libertadores title, unless they meet Brazilian teams all the way to the final and the CBF intervenes once again to win them a championship."

    I hope this is banter, in which case I will take it lightly.

    If you really mean it, I will not take your intelligence in high regard. Another idiot who likes to advocate that. As Andy Gray would say, do me a favour, love.

  • Comment number 86.


    I really hope you aren't a victim of the BBC online budget slashing as your blogs are genuinely among the best on BBC let alone BBC Sport. I imagine that as you are based in South America you will be easy pickings. However, I've seen you doing a few pieces on Sky etc so you'll be fine.

    Anyway, do you know if your reporting on the South America scene will be retained?

  • Comment number 87.

    regarding zizou,i don't think 98 was his world cup,maybe the final but he didn't offer so much going through the league and knockouts. Injured,suspended etc etc.. One shouldn't forget those french soldiers who drilled themselves all the way to the final. Maybe 06 was zidane's WC but then he didn't win. Not disregarding zidane and yes he is one of the greatest players to have graced the beautiful game,but ronaldo was actually the best player of 98,except for when it mattered.
    A whole generation called football as ronaldo's game.

  • Comment number 88.

    #9, I agree. Ronaldo along with Maradona, Pele, Baggio, and Messi would have had a horrible time playing against Bolton, Wigan and Stoke.

    Being serious, I have a question for Tim. Having read about Udinese agreeing to sign the Paraguayan youngster Miguel Medina, in addition to their capture of a 16-year-old Alexis Sanchez a few years ago, are South American clubs upset to see their young players taken from them this young? Is this similar to English teams stealing players from teams in Spain, France and Italy before they can turn professional, or are these 'fairer' deals that the clubs are happy to agree to?

    Just to avoid any confusion I'm referring purely to players who are about 16 and yet to play a first team game.

  • Comment number 89.

    @ 83: no, it was the first half of the season, when he helped Santos to the São Paulo State Championship and Brazilian Cup titles, as well as a good position in the national championship.
    @ 85: so Alex, you're a Corintiano. Won't hold it against you, though it's not nice to call people idiots in a public forum :o)

  • Comment number 90.

    Participants should note that snide remarks about grammar discourage non-native speakers whose opinions could be of interest.

  • Comment number 91.


    Tolima's shirts are not red and yellow, they are burgundy and gold.
    But they are hideous indeed. =)

  • Comment number 92.

    Also, since when did the Tricolor become "the white, BLUE and red of Sao Paulo"?

  • Comment number 93.


    You seem to be insistent on nit-picking while fundamentally ignoring peoples' points. Namely that why would a player of such obvious calibre return to Brazilian football, other than for the virtually unprecedented astronomical wages that Ronaldinho is earning? It should be the priority of every ambitious footballer to be plying his trade in the best European leagues in the world. Please feel free to correct me if you think I'm wrong. Or again just ignore my point just to share some of your obvious (if a little tedious) footballing knowledge.

  • Comment number 94.

    @89 well, thanks for not holding it against me, I really was desperate for you not to.

    If you want respect then please start yourself by not showing disrespect to 20 millioon people that support Corinthians. One of the great differences of people commenting here is the absence of vitriol we see against Corinthians in the blogs of Brazilian journalists. So I can do without it, thank you.

  • Comment number 95.

    Tim, much as we rivals of São Paulo like to say they have pink jerseys, the truth is they wear red, white and black - not blue as you wrote.

    Conmeballs (#40), Corinthians´ midweek matches against Mogi and Ituano will be postponed to mid February so they can play Tolima without using reserves on the Paulista championship.

    Also, the first match Corinthians will play after the qualifier is the biggest city derby against Palmeiras. It´d be interesting to see how their supporters would react to an early exit.

  • Comment number 96.

    @93: mpk87

    Every comment from you tries to put down the brazilian league as being uninportant and the last place a brazilian player wants to be. Please, tone down your ignorance.

    "why would a player of such obvious calibre return to Brazilian football, other than for the virtually unprecedented astronomical wages that Ronaldinho is earning?"

    why would any brazilian player want to go to Europe, to move away from his friends, family, climate, the style of football they like to play, etc, other than to earn the huge european salaries??

    Glory? Thats relative. The only reason you find more glory in european leagues is exactly because the best players are there, so you can only prove yourself there. The best players are there because of salaries.

    The more good brazilian players return to Brazil, the less need to move abroad brazilian players will have to prove themselves. I already said this before in this blog.

  • Comment number 97.

    92 and 95 - indeed, another mistake. Too many errors for one piece.

    All I can say in my defence is the old line that haste is the enemy of precision - my attention on the moment is on the Under-20 Championships, which give little pause for rest.
    The piece also changed as I was writing it. The orginal idea was a comparison between Corinthians and Indepeniente of Argentina, who are also in the qualifying round.
    Corinthians are in part defined by their lack of success in the competition, but with Independiente it's the very opposite - they've won it more times than anyone else - so that was the idea - and then the piece got hijacked by Corinthians!

  • Comment number 98.

    Hi Tim, I love your blog. Great article as usual.

    Any chance of you doing any articles on Uruguay's league? I am moving there in the fall and would love to learn more, it seems finding information on the rivalries and the cultural background behind a lot of the clubs in Montevideo is scarce.

    Cheers Tim, keep it up.

  • Comment number 99.

    Nevermind, Tim, I must have missed your article on Uruguayan football last March. Time for another one? ;)

  • Comment number 100.

    "and then the piece got hijacked by Corinthians"

    errrr... Tim, are you trying to perpetuate old stereotypes about Corinthians fans?? lol



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