Only occasionally can the bare facts and figures of a player's career convey the sheer talent that they possess. Ronaldo Luiz Nazario da Lima is quite simply one of the greatest strikers in the history of world football. At his best Ronaldo's foot movement and dribbling skills were so mesmerising they had to be seen in slow motion for the perfection of their execution to be fully appreciated.
Voted FIFA World Player of the Year on three occasions and a double World Cup winner, but these honours are merely the tip of the iceberg in the record-breaking career of the man they call 'The Phenomenon', who found the net 62 times for Brazil from 98 internationals.
The fairytale aspect of his career is best illustrated by his overcoming a nightmare three-year knee-injury lay-off to score eight times at the 2002 World Cup, including both goals in the final victory over Germany.
Having been a non-playing member of the World Cup-winning Brazil squad in 1994, the prodigiously talented teenager joined Dutch side PSV Eindhoven in the same year. In only two years at the club, he scored 54 goals in a mere 57 games -- an incredible average of just under a goal every game.
That goal ratio soon attracted Barcelona's interest, and the Catalan club wasted no time in securing their new star's signature. At Barcelona, Ronaldo reached new heights, winning the FIFA World Player of the Year awards in 1996 and 1997 along the way. In 1998, and now with Inter Milan, Ronaldo began the 1998 World Cup in France as a fully-established first-team player for his country. Under the guidance of coach Mario 'Lobo' Zagallo, the Brazilians blazed their way through to the final only to lose 3-0 to their French hosts.
It was a result that shook the whole of Brazil to its foundations, and for Ronaldo it signalled the beginning of the most turbulent chapter of his footballing career. On the morning of the final, the mercurial striker suffered a sudden convulsive fit, which almost ruled him out of the match itself. Despite Ronaldo battling on to play, many members of the squad later admitted that the incident destabilised the team at a critical moment.
After lengthy layoffs due to career-threatening knee injuries, Ronaldo moved back to Spain with Real Madrid in 2002 and was called up by the Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari for the World Cup squad. No one could have predicted a better outcome. Not only had Brazil won their fifth FIFA World Cup, but the 'Phenomenon' was the tournament's top scorer, netting eight goals in only seven games.
Four years later, Ronaldo came back in Germany to take his competition haul to a record-breaking 15 goals before Zinedine Zidane's France undid Brazil once again, this time in the quarterfinals.
Five years later, Ronaldo brought end to a glittering career when he announced his retirement: “My body's beaten me. It's been a wonderful, successful and exciting career. I've suffered a lot of defeats and won countless victories.”