In football, the term ‘No. 9‘ is used for a striker or center-forward who plays on opponent half and whose sole job is to score goals for his team. Ronaldo Nazário is a player who played as a striker or ‘No. 9’ for his whole career and eventually became famous as ‘The Greatest no. 9‘ of all time. The game of football is being played for more than a hundred years across the world and the world has witnessed many skillful and exceptional strikers from different nations in a different era. To be regarded as the greatest of them all is quite a feat for someone.
“Ronaldo Nazário was, without doubt, the best striker I’ve ever seen. What I saw him do was spectacular, and that was having come to the club after a World Cup and having been sidelined for two years before that with a knee injury.”Michel Salgado
Early Career: Playing with the name ‘Ronaldinho’
Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima was born on September 22, 1976, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Being born in a country where people worship football from childhood, Ronaldo was no exception and started playing football from a very young age. He started his club career for Brazilian club Cruzeiro in 1993. When he was called for Brazil’s world cup squad in 1994, he was just 17 and was an unused substitute before that for the national team.
At that time, he became quite famous with another name. The Brazilians always has a history with their name. The great legend Pelé himself got his name ‘Pelé’ as a nickname from playing football whose real name is Edson Arantes do Nascimento and there is a long story behind that nickname. There is a story behind Ronaldo’s name as well.
“The first time I saw him play was at Cruzeiro. He was still a kid. It was in a game where he ended up scoring five goals. From that point on he showed he was truly a phenomenon”Cafu
Back then, there was another player on Brazil’s side whose name was Ronaldo Rodrigues de Jesus or Ronaldo (which translates ‘Big Ronaldo’ in Portuguese). Hence, he came to be known as ‘Ronaldinho‘ (translating to Little Ronaldo). Eventually, Ronaldo won his first world cup at the age of 17 in 1994 and by then he was famous with the name ‘Ronaldinho’.
In the 1996 Olympics, he played with the name ‘Ronaldinho’ on the back of his shirt. He won the Bronze medal for Brazil in that tournament. Three years later another young player joined the national side named Ronaldo de Asis Moreira and so he started to be called as little Ronaldo or ‘Ronaldinho’, while Ronaldo Nazário reclaimed the name Ronaldo on his jersey. Ronaldo de Asis Moreira is the player who is known to the world as Ronaldinho today.
In 1994, Ronaldo was signed by Dutch club PSV Eindhoven and played there for two seasons before moving to Catalan giants Barcelona in 1996.
Ronaldo 1996-2006 : Achieving everything for El Fenomeno
In 1996, he was signed by FC Barcelona for a record transfer fee of £19 million at that time. He was only 19 years old then. He played one season for Barcelona but he scored 47 goals in 49 appearances which helped his team to win Spanish Cup and UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup. His performance leads him to win the Ballon d’Or trophy at the age of just 20 years old. He became the youngest player to win the Ballon d’Or and that record is still intact today.
The next season he moved to Italy from Spain as Inter Milan paid the buyout clause of his contract which was £25million, another record transfer fee. Ronaldo was such a player, he broke the transfer record twice and broke his own transfer record of being the most valuable player – the only player to achieve this unique feat after Maradona. He spent 5 years at Inter Milan and scored 59 goals in 99 appearances. While playing for Inter, he suffered a fatal ACL injury which put a temporary stop to his career for almost two years. This injury would hamper his career greatly and it is said if it was not for this injury, he would have become even a greater footballer at the end.
In World Cup, 1998 Ronaldo was the regular striker for Brazil and was not a substitute anymore like 1994. Brazil lost the final to France caused by a stunning performance from Zinedine Zidane but Ronaldo won the Golden Ball award. He won Copa America twice in 1997 and 1999 and for Brazil. In the World Cup of 2002, Brazil became the champion for the fifth time and Ronaldo was the Golden Boot winner. He won both Golden Ball and Golden Boot in two consecutive world cups.
His last world cup was 2006, where Brazil was defeated by France in Quarter Finals when another Zidane masterclass took place. But Ronaldo had become the top scorer of the world cup by then. His record was later broken by German striker Miroslav Klose.
Ronaldo Nazario came back to Spain in 2002 after spending five years from Inter Milan at Real Madrid. He was signed by president Florentino Perez as a part of his Galactico project. Perez had already signed Zinedine Zidane and Luis Figo, the best midfielder and one of the best wingers around the world at that time. At then, Ronaldo had just recovered from an ACL injury that he suffered during his time at Inter and no one was ready to bet on him. However, Florentino Perez made his move and signed him after a splendid performance in the world cup. He won La Liga in his first season at Real Madrid and also won his second Ballon d’Or.
In his five years at Madrid, Ronaldo scored 104 goals in 177 matches while playing alongside the bests of the world. He also won two La Liga titles during this period. He left Real Madrid in 2007 and joined AC Milan.
‘“He’s one of the best attackers you could ever wish to see [ . . . ]. He was such a spectacular player, he ran so quickly with the ball he dribbled with it all the time. [ . . . ] the movement of his legs put defenders in so much difficulty, and then in front of goal he was so at ease and uncomplicated when it came to having a shot.”Robert Pires
During 1996 -2006, Ronaldo Nazario has played for four different clubs in three different countries. He has won trophies everywhere he played, and has won all possible individual awards – be it for club or country, during this period. He has played for arch-rivals like Barcelona and Real Madrid, AC Milan and Inter Milan but there is not a single fan in this world who has ever hated him. He was truly a phenomenon on the pitch the likes of which no one ever witnessed.
End of an Era
When he joined AC Milan he was already at the finishing point of his career. He played at AC Milan for just one season and left the club. One year later he went back to his home nation Brazil and joined Corinthians for two seasons. By then, he was gaining weight and was not in the spotlight anymore. When he announced his retirement in 2011, he revealed that he has suffered from hypothyroidism. He said in a press conference that he came to knew about his health conditions four years back. He was gaining more and more weight because of this and he needed to take hormone injections to continue which was prohibited by the regulatory board. Hence he decided to put off his shoes.
Ronaldo Nazario, who was not beaten by any defenders in 17 years of his career, who came back fighting from a career-ending ACL injury, had to say goodbye to the game due to an illness.
“I love to score goals after passing all the defenders as well as the keeper. This is not my speciality, but my habit.”Ronaldo Nazário
Being a striker, he was always a shinning flare on the pitch. He moved so fast with the ball, dribbled past everyone and scoring goals was a natural thing for him. He broke transfer record twice and won the world’s best footballer award, just within 20 years of age. He has played against some of the best defenders ever, faced difficult injuries many times and yet he has achieved everything a footballer can possibly win for club or country. If it was not for his injury and health condition, probably the world could have got much more to see from him.
Do you like Ronaldo Nazario aka El Fenomeno? Let us know in the comment section below.