The two Ronnies
Two of the best players to have graced world football in the last 20 years have now returned to the homeland that nurtured their talent toward the worldwide acclaim it achieved.
Luis Nazario Da Lima, better known as "Ronaldo," was the original Ronaldo and was also known as Ronaldo the phenomenon, such was his astonishing ability. He was named FIFA World Player of the Year three times—in 1996, 1997 and remarkably, five years later in 2002, a clear testament to his phenomenal gifts.
His goals propelled Brazil to the World Cup trophy in 2002, which for him (and many others) at least partially erased the grim memory of the debacle that was Brazil's final in France '98.
Ronaldo represented several high-profile clubs throughout Europe and, with the world at his feet, was for a time the best striker in the game. His bewitching dribbling style coupled with a fearsome finish, put the concentrated defenses of Europe at his swashbuckling mercy, tearing teams apart with skill, pace and technical mastery.
His career was sadly blighted by injury—as is often the case with players who cannot be stopped in a legal fashion.
The tighter controls on tackling and roughhouse tactics are a luxury that has only recently really been afforded to those who benefit most.
He returned to Brazil in 2009 after chronic knee problems sidelined him for a third time.
The World Cup's all-time scoring leader trained with Flamengo and was expected to sign—when he then inexplicably signed with arch rivals Corinthians, his current squad.
Ronaldo de Assis Moreira, commonly known as "Ronaldinho" (Little Ronaldo), or Ronaldinho Gaucho, was another who took the European game by storm.
Playing for several top European clubs, he garnered multiple indiviudal awards, including FIFA World Player of the Year in 2004 and 2005.
At his peak, his dribbling can best be described as mesmeric. For a time, his pace and scoring ability was unmatched throughout the world. He changed the game in Europe and will be remembered with reverence by generations of fans the world over.
For a time in Europe, the magical players Ronaldo and Ronaldinho lit up the game, dazzling fans and opposition players alike with an array of skills that left most standing slack-jawed.
As great talents often are, these two players were incomparable at their respective peaks. They were both pivotal members of the Brazilian squad that took the world trophy in 2002 and returned to European careers, where they garnered yet more acclaim.
2002 represented the beginning of Ronaldinho's rise to the prominence his countryman had enjoyed up until that very year when Ronaldo De Lima won the FIFA World Player of the Year for the third time.
Ronaldinho would win it just two years later—helping sustain Brazil's domination of world football. It was, however, a disappointing showing for the Brazil national side in the 2006 World Cup, as they were bundled out by France.
These two players would subsequently go on to struggle in Europe—sometimes appearing to be going through the motions as their careers waned considerably from the blazing beginnings they both experienced.
This is perhaps a great shame, as there are those today who do not realize just how good these two players were.
Cristiano Ronaldo may well be a very good dribbling exponent, but he had nothing on these two at the peak of their respective careers.
Ronaldo De Lima could literally zoom past defenders because of his amazing grace, speed and balance, but he also had quite remarkable ball control that enabled him to play the ball foot to foot at tremendous speed—making it almost impossible to defend against him.
Manchester United fans will always remember the time he went to Old Trafford and scored a stunning hat rick in front of the awestruck home fans who, to their credit, gave a standing ovation after he was subbed off late in the match.
Ronaldinho was another who brought a new level of ball control to the pitch—the ball here, there and everywhere with defenders straining to keep their eyes on the ball (let alone make a tackle).
Ronaldinho's brilliance was something wonderful to witness and those who were able to see either of these players play know the phenomenal skill-level that is being referred to when mentioning this fabulous duo.
They have returned from whence they came now, to give back to the place that helped make them world-beaters.
Now, all the world can say is, "thanks, thanks for the memories and the amazing sights you gave us over the years."
We may well see something of them again somewhere in the news, as real universe borne talent never really fades away fully—and they are after all still playing.
It does, however, close a chapter in footballing history that was as dazzling as few others have been.
With technology at its most refined in terms of football coverage as these two graced the world stage, the viewing public was able to see the actual speed that players like this moved at, and be suitably amazed and dumbfounded by the sheer velocity on show.
Ronaldo and Ronaldinho have returned home. Remember them well, for they are the players who helped shape the game we see now and will remain the benchmark for generations to come.