Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima signed his first professional
contract at age 14 for Cruzeiro Esporte Clube in Brazil. His
professional contract propelled him on to the junior national team where
by age 16 the super striker had scored 59 goals in 57 matches.
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Learning from the best
At age 17, Ronaldo was selected to the senior national squad for
Brazil's 1994 World Cup winning campaign. Although resigned to the
sidelines, he was able to watch first hand the wizardry of famous goal
scoring tandem Romario and Bebeto.
Perfect at PSV
After the 1994 World Cup, Ronaldo joined PSV Eindhoven of the Dutch
Eredivisie for the 1994-1995 season. Ronaldo impressed immediately and
finished as the Dutch league's top scorer.
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After his inspiring performances in Holland, Ronaldo moved to Barcelona
in the 1996-1997 season where he scored 34 goals in 37 appearances (47
in 49 if one includes appearances in the Copa Del Rey and European Cup
Winners Cup). Ronaldo's amazing play blew away football fans and critics
alike, earning him, hands down, the 1996 World Footballer of the Year
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In 1997, Ronaldo moved from Spain to Italy where he signed with Inter
Milan, shown here with his new club holding Serie A's golden boot award.
Ronaldo's display of skill, power, and speed, wowed not only the Blue
half of Milan but the world as well as he won the 1997 World Footballer
of the Year award for the second consecutive year.
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What goes up...
In the 1998 World Cup, the twice World Footballer of the Year was
overwhelmed by expectation and while managing to score four goals,
crashed out in the final match of the tournament against host nation
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Birth of the Gordito
A year after the 1998 World Cup, Ronaldo severely injured his right knee
and was sidelined for several months. During his first comeback in 2000,
he managed to play only seven minutes before injuring his knee for a
second time. Pictured above in late 2000, Ronaldo gets serious about his
VANDERLEI ALMEIDA/Staff - Getty Images
Ronaldo had his comeback at the 2002 World Cup where he was the
tournament's top scorer with eight goals. Pictured here against Germany
and goalkeeper Oliver Kahn, Ronaldo scores his second goal of the final
match to lead Brazil to their fifth World Cup title. Later that year,
Ronaldo rightfully went on to be awarded World Footballer of the Year
for the third time.
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After the World Cup, Ronaldo transferred from Inter Milan to Real Madrid
for $51 million as a result of frequent disputes with Inter Milan coach
Hector Cuper. Sales of Ronaldo's new Real Madrid jersey on the day of
his signing alone, broke every previously established record.
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The Meringue Flamenco
Delayed because of injury, Ronaldo's long awaited Madrid debut in 2002
saw him scoring a brace and demonstrating that the Ronaldo of old had
returned to club football. Here, Ronaldo is pictured in his famous debut
scoring his first of 23 league goals on the way to claiming his first
domestic title, the coveted 2003 La Liga Championship.
PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/Stringer - Getty Images
Master of disaster
Ronaldo, still doing it for Brazil, played a pivotal role in their
excellent CONMEBOL qualifying campaign. Ronaldo is pictured here being
brought down in the box in a qualifying match against Argentina in 2004.
Ronaldo converted three goals from the penalty spot to earn himself a
rather peculiar hat trick.
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Ronaldo was all smiles after scoring the opening goal during the World
Cup 2006 match between Brazil and Ghana. Not only did he help his team
advance to the quarterfinals, but his goal also made him the all-time
leading scorer in World Cup history.
Christof Koepsel - Getty Images
Back to Italy
Ronaldo's time with Real Madrid came to a close in January of 2007 when
he transferred to Italian giants AC Milan during the January transfer
window. Ronaldo hoped that a fresh start with Milan would reignite his
Guiseppe Cacace - Getty Images
End of the Road?
On February 13, 2008, Ronaldo was substituted into a Milan home match
against Livorno at the San Siro. Having only recently returned from a
long-term thigh injury, the stadium was brought to a quiet hush when
Ronaldo fell in the penalty area and clutched his left knee. Doctors
later confirmed a severed tendon which could effectively end his career.
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Good as new
Corinthians' Ronaldo (right) plays in his first competitive game, after
recovering from knee surgery, during a Brasil Cup soccer game in Goias,
Brazil, Wednesday, March 4, 2009.
Ricardo Rafael - Associated Press