I don’t think sex could ever be as "rewarding as winning the World Cup." It’s not that sex is not great; just that the World Cup is only every four years and sex is a lot more regular. "The head wants to go on, but the body can’t take any more. I think of an action, but I can’t do it the way I want to. It’s time to go." These were the words of Ronaldo Luis Nazario de Lima after winning the World Cup in 2002 and when he hung up his boots in 2011. They pretty much sum up the Brazilian.
He was a 25-year-old who went to Korea-Japan after suffering a career-threatening knee injury and scored a brace in the final against arguably the best keeper of that generation — Oliver Kahn of Germany. In the second case, it was the parting words of a heartbroken, overweight and legendary No 9 who terrorised the best defenders of his time. Ronaldo loved football. But he loved a lot of other things as well, making him very similar to many past Brazilian greats. Born in the poor and notorious streets, stardom and fame was too much to handle for them. Ronaldo was not the silkiest of the lot.
Though he mastered the elastico and stepovers like no one else, his was more of a direct approach. He resembled a bull running at the matador, with a ball at his feet. Head down, he combined pace with power to run past defenders. He loved to dribble and round off the keeper when one on one. His career was split into two halves. In 1994, he was part of the squad as a 17-year-old. As Romario led Brazil to their fourth trophy, he watched from the bench. Four years later, a mysterious seizure spoiled what could have been a great tournament for Ronaldo. While there is still no clarity over what happened to him on the day of the final against France, it was the start of a bad phase.
He suffered his first major injury in 1999 and missed most of the qualifiers for 2002 in rehabilitation. But he made it on time to lead the line for Brazil in Korea and Japan. In 2002, the Selecao were once again the favourites. All focus was on Il Fenomeno. He was no longer the same. He was a little bigger and had lost the explosion that made him special. But class as they say, is permanent.
He conquered the world again, scoring eight goals in the process to script one of the most beautiful World Cup redemption stories. A lot of people claim he was finished after damaging his knee in 1999. Ronaldo’s career was not as long and consistent as Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo’s. The question of what could have been if not for injuries will remain. But what he did inspired a lot of modern day players. He was unplayable at his best and one of the most complete strikers of his time.