Ronaldo: The Phenomenon's Unlikely Return

alex baker@@baker_alexContributor IIIJuly 2, 2009

LISBON, PORTUGAL - NOVEMBER 28:  Ronaldo of AC Milan looks on from the substitutes bench before the kick off of the UEFA Champions League Group D match between Benfica and AC Milan at the Luz Stadium on November 28, 2007 in Lisbon, Portugal.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

After suffering the third serious knee injury of his career, Brazilian striker Ronaldo endured a lengthy absence from the world football stage.

During that period the few headlines he made mostly involved run-ins with transvestite hookers and going to bat for Michael Phelps over his bong photo scandal.

Having been two-times FIFA world player of the year Ronaldo had enjoyed his most recent European success with AC Milan. He suffered a ruptured tendon in his knee in February of 2008. With such a serious injury and Ronaldo already into his early 30s, many were quick to write off his chances of a comeback.

Indeed when Ronaldo announced his return to fitness earlier this year, the expected offers from top-level European clubs failed to materialize. At 32, accomplished, and wealthy, some thought it might be time for the Ronaldo to hang up his boots. But not Ronaldo himself.

This man wanted to play football.

And play football he has. 

In March he signed with Brazilian club Corinthians.  Since then he has scored 11 goals, several of them decisive ones, helping to lead Corinthians to win the Sao Paulo state trophy back in May.

This week he helped the club clinch their second trophy of the season. In the Brazilian cup final Ronaldo provided a crucial assist leading Corinthians to a 4-2 win on aggregate, securing the team a place in next years Copa Libertadores.

With a pedigree that dates all the way back to the 1994 World Cup, it has pleasantly surprised many that Ronaldo has come back as strongly as he has. While he has yet to recover the form that made him two-time FIFA player of the year and earned him the nickname “the Phenomenon,” Ronaldo has been playing good football at the top club level in Brazil.

Ronaldo is expected to finish out his year at Corinthians and probably extend his contract to 2010. Perhaps Corinthians' inclusion in next year's Cup has inspired Ronaldo.
Despite his absence from the Brazil squad in the recent Confederations Cup, when asked if he wanted to return to European football, “O Fenomeno,” was more than clear.

“My days in Europe are history,” he responded.

For a striker entering his mid-30s to come back from his third career threatening injury is no small feat. 

To come back, play well, score goals and win cups, well that’s the stuff champions are made of.

Are you taking notes Ruud Van Nistelrooy?