Brazilian Ronaldo's Top 10 Defining Moments

Robbie Blakeley@@rio_robbieSpecial to Bleacher ReportMarch 13, 2014

Brazilian Ronaldo's Top 10 Defining Moments

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    Ronaldo Luis Nazario de Lima, better known simply as Ronaldo, was one of the most feared strikers on the planet in his heyday.

    In a career that stretched to almost two decades and close to 100 games for the Brazilian national side, we pick the 10 defining moments that helped the former Selecao No. 9 stand out as one of the most talented individuals of the modern era.

WINS 1993 COPA DO BRASIL

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    After starting out at local Rio club Sao Cristovao and suffering rejection from boyhood heroes Flamengo, Ronaldo won his first title at the age of 16, the Copa do Brasil with Minas Gerais club Cruzeiro in 1993.

    He was the third-highest goalscorer in the 1993 Campeonato Brasileiro and made a name for himself with five goals in a single match against Bahia. Explosive performances were a pattern that would become a trend over his career as he took the step into European football with clear ease.

TRANSITION to EUROPEAN FOOTBALL

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    Ronaldo spent two years in one of Europe's lesser leagues—the Dutch Eredivisie with PSV Eindhoven. He scored 54 goals in 57 games and outscored Ajax hitman Patrick Kluivert by 12 goals in his first season. At the time the pair were considered the two greatest strikers in Holland as well as two of the most exciting young strikers in world football.

    Whilst still at PSV, he suffered the first of many knee injuries that were to plague his career. He missed the majority of his second season at the club, but still managed to notch 19 goals in 21 outings as PSV lifted the Dutch Cup.

FIRST WORLD PLAYER of the YEAR AWARD

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    Ronaldo moved to Catalan giants Barcelona for the 1996/97 season, where he won the first of three World Player of the Year Awards. Despite only spending a year at the club, Ronaldo is remembered for all the right reasons. He netted on 47 occasions, a record that stood until a certain Lionel Messi arrived on the scene.

    He was La Liga's leading scorer for the year he spent at Barca, with 34 goals in 37 appearances. Ronaldo had arrived on a grand European stage and taken to it like a duck to water.

DISASTER at 1998 WORLD CUP

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    The 1998 World Cup seemed tailor-made for Ronaldo. At just 21 years of age, he was already one of the most feared players in the game. He scored four goals en route to the final and a meeting with hosts France.

    Subsequent events remain shrouded in mystery to this day, despite a high-level inquiry in the Brazilian Senate to try to get to the bottom of just what happened. Ronaldo, as has been confirmed, suffered a fit on the day of the final and was taken to hospital for tests, omitted from the side to start the game.

    After then being declared fit to play, Edmundo was removed from the starting line-up to accommodate the star man. But he put in an anonymous performance as Brazil were comprehensively beaten 3-0, and rumours began to circulate about the Brazilian man of the hour.

KNEE TROUBLE at INTERNAZIONALE

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    After initially trying to prise him away from PSV, Italian outfit Internazionale finally snagged their man in 1997. But Ronaldo and Inter was not a happy marriage.

    Across five seasons, he made just 68 league appearances—32 of those in his first, in which he scored 25 goals, and none at all in the 2000/01 campaign, after a succession of serious problems with his right knee.

    From 1999-2002 Ronaldo played in just 17 league games. At the tender age of 25, it looked like the man who had by now been dubbed O Fenomeno may have to bring his career to a horrifically early end. A nightmare spell in Italy looked to have finished the best forward on the planet.

REDEMPTION in JAPAN

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    Ronaldo proved all doubters wrong at the 2002 World Cup. Luiz Felipe Scolari's gamble, of selecting a player who had barely played football for two years, paid off. The Selecao No. 9 helped himself to eight goals as Brazil secured their fifth, and to date last, World Cup title.

    In a fitting finale, the then-25-year-old bagged a brace in the final as Brazil comfortably saw off Germany 2-0. He had previously scored their winner in the semi-final against Turkey, meaning he scored his side's last three goals in the tournament and put himself back on the world radar. Ronaldo was back.

THIRD WORLD PLAYER of the YEAR AWARD

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    Following a transfer to Real Madrid, Ronaldo topped a glorious 2002 with his third and final World Player of the Year, having won his second at Inter in 1999.

    Ronaldo spent five years at the Bernabeu during the famed galactico era. In that time he netted 104 goals in 177 games, but the first whisperings of weight issues began to creep in.

    He won two Spanish titles whilst in Madrid, but Europe's greatest prize—the Champions League—continued to elude him. Ronaldo at Real was arguably the last time the world saw him at his predatory best.

WORLD CUP RECORD-HOLDER

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    The 2006 World Cup may not have been successful for Brazil, but it certainly was for Ronaldo. The then-29-year-old, with a strike in his country's 4-1 win over Japan, became the all-time leading scorer in World Cup tournaments with 15 goals.

    The Real Madrid forward netted three times during the tournament, but the Fantastic Four of Ronaldo, Adriano, Ronaldinho and Kaka failed to fire Brazil to a sixth crown. It was to be O Fenomeno's final World Cup showing, but one that will go down in history for the former No. 9.

EUROPEAN CAREER ENDS

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    Ronaldo's 14-year career in Europe came to an end the night of February 13, 2008. Now playing for Italian club AC Milan, the World Cup record-holder came off the bench in a Serie A clash with Livorno.

    Jumping for an innocuous header, he fell clutching his leg, having ruptured ligaments in his left knee. It was the exact injury he had suffered to his right knee whilst at Inter.

    At the end of the season, Milan decided against renewing the striker's contract. Ronaldo's European adventure was over.

CORINTHIANS and RETIREMENT

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    Ronaldo ended his professional career at Brazilian club Corinthians. After two unsuccessful shots at the Copa Libertadores, Ronaldo hung up his boots in February 2011 after his body gave up on him.

    True to form, he brought success to the Paulista club. With Ronaldo, Corinthians lifted the 2009 Campeonato Paulista and Copa do Brasil.

    His signing also signalled the beginning of the growth that saw the club crowned world champions in 2012. But it was in the marketing department that he really helped with the club boom, as he signed a five-year scheme with the club which continues to this day.