As part of a new series, we use the power of photography to tell the stories of the greatest and most influential footballers in the world. Part two of the series sees us profile Ronaldo, undoubtedly one of the greatest footballers of all time.
Where it all began. Ronaldo started his career at Brazilian side Cruzeiro where he made his debut as a 16-year-old in 1993. The phenomenon, as he was called throughout his career, quickly started scoring goals and instantly made a name for himself.
A 17-year-old Ronaldo was part of the Brazil squad that won the 1994 World Cup in USA. Here he (number 20) is seen celebrating one of Romario’s goals during the tournament.
After the World Cup, Ronaldo left Brazil and headed to Europe. His first stop was in Holland with PSV. Ronaldo hit the ground running and scored 30 league goals in 33 league games in his first season. His second was marred by a knee injury, but he still managed 12 league goals in 13 games.
After his hugely successful spell in Holland, the Phenomenon left PSV and joined Catalan giants Barcelona. Ronaldo picked up where he left off at PSV and scored an incredible 34 goals in 37 league games in his first season at the Camp Nou.
His outstanding performances made sure Ronaldo won the coveted FIFA world player of year crown in 1996, becoming the youngest player to do so at 20 years old.
Ronaldo lasted just one season at Barcelona, before a move to Inter for a then world record fee of 20 million pounds. Ronaldo joined a team containing the likes of Javier Zanetti, Diego Simeone and Ivan Zamorano. Ronaldo outshone them all though, as his ridiculous goalscoring continued, now with 25 goals in 32 Serie A games.
For the second year running Ronaldo won the FIFA world player of the year title.
In May 1998 Ronaldo scored a trademark goal, rounding the keeper to finish as Inter lifted the Uefa Cup trophy, beating Italian rivals Lazio in the final.
The 1998 World Cup ended in disappointment for Ronaldo, as he was struck by a mystery illness on the eve of the final. Brazil would go on to lose the final against home nation France.
More disappointment for Ronaldo followed in 1999 as he injured his knee in a game against Lecce, the injury would sideline him and require surgery. Nearly three years of his career was derailed by the injury.
Ahead of the 2002 World Cup, Ronaldo was back. He starred for Brazil who would go on to win the tournament in Japan & Korea. Ronaldo scored twice in the final, and ended up as the tournament’s top scorer with eight goals.
In 2002 Ronaldo would be crowned the best player in the world for a third time. Only Lionel Messi can better Ronaldo in terms of these accolades.
After the 2002 World Cup Ronaldo would leave Inter and join Real Madrid’s galacticos for 46 million euros. In his first season at the club, he helped them win the La Liga title, his first league win. Ronaldo was in scintillating form and helped himself to a glorious hat trick against Manchester United in a Champions League tie at Old Trafford, earning him a standing ovation from both sets of supporters.
Ronaldo’s Real career started brilliantly, with him scoring 23, 24 and 21 league goals respectively in his his first three seasons, but his last two seasons was marred by injuries and issues with his weight.
At the 2006 world Cup, Ronaldo scored his 15th goal at the World Cup finals, making him the highest goalscorer in the tournament’s history.
In January 2007, Ronaldo left Madrid and joined AC Milan for eight million euros. In his first six months he scored seven times in 14 Serie A matches.
Despite having a glittering career, Ronaldo never won the Champions League. His new club AC Milan won the 2007 title, however Ronaldo was ineligible, having featured already in the competition for Real Madrid. This was the closest he would come to a Champions League title.
Injuries ruined Ronaldo’s second season at Milan, and in 2009 he returned home to Brazil for two seasons at Corinthians. Two years later, in 2011, Ronaldo announced his retirement from professional football. He retired as Brazil’s second best goalscorer of all time behind Pele, after scoring 62 goals in 98 appearances for his country.
Ronaldo retires as one of football’s true greats. Without the injuries he suffered he would surely have had more world player of the year titles, but the fact he still managed three shows the quality he possessed. He scored goals at all his clubs, and for his country which he helped to two World Cup wins. Ronaldo had everything a striker could ever need; strength, speed, skill and he could finish as well with either foot. He remains a legend, and will never be forgotten.