Ronaldo v Ronaldo
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Ronaldo V Ronaldo: Who is the greatest legend of the game?

One Ronaldo terrorised defences during the 90’s and 00’s, while the other Ronaldo has been bamboozling opponents for more than a decade. We’ve asked two fans the question; Ronaldo V Ronaldo: Who is the greatest legend of the game?

Ronaldo at World Cup
Image: Sky Sports

Ronaldo V Ronaldo: The case for the Brazilian legend

By Pablo E.

“The first time I saw him play was at Cruzeiro. He was still a kid. It was in a game where he ended up scoring five goals. From that point on he showed he was truly a phenomenon.”

Brazilian legend Cafu, realised that Ronaldo would become one of the greatest players of all time.  At his peak, the Brazilian was nearly unstoppable. He began his career at the tender age of 16. An incredible 44 goals in 47 games for Cruzeiro alerted top European clubs to his potential. Playing so many games at such a young age also perhaps contributed to his series of injuries that plagued him later in his career. However, once he decided to join PSV at the age of 17, European football was about to witness the phenomenon.

Dutch football may have decreased in quality over the past few years but in the 1990’s, the Eredivise was one of the strongest leagues in Europe. Ajax’s all conquering team of kids would win the Champions League in the 1994/1995 season. This nearly overshadowed the goal scoring exploits of Ronaldo. 30 league goals in his first season showed the Brazilian could easily make the grade in Europe. Over two seasons in the Netherlands, Ronaldo scored 54 goals in 58 games.

Praise from the legends of the game

“For me, Ronaldo is the greatest. He was as [good as] Pele. There was nobody like him. No one has influenced both football and the players who emerged as Ronaldo.”

Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s admiration for Ronaldo is well documented. The Swedish striker and current saviour of Man United considers the Brazilian to be the best of all time. When Barcelona gave PSV a world record fee of $19.5 million in 1996 for his services, it would prove to be the start of his peak years. Ronaldo would only spend one season at the Camp Nou. During this time, he scored 47 goals. 34 goals in La Liga meant he received the European Golden Shoe. While the 20 year old also won the World Player of the Year.

“I didn’t need any time to gel when playing alongside Ronaldo. He knew how I played and I knew where he liked to receive the ball. It was very easy to play with him because he was great at finding the right positions both inside and outside the box. As soon as I picked up the ball, he already knew what I was going to do with it.”

Rivaldo must have been devastated in the summer of 1997 when Barcelona decided to accept a world record fee of $27 million for the best player on the planet. After contract negotiations had stalled, Inter Milan nipped in and paid his ridiculously low buy-out clause. In 12 months, Ronaldo had managed to break the world record for a transfer fee twice. Serie A was considered the best league in the world at the time. Renowned for tough defending and conservatism, Ronaldo simply ripped up the rulebook. 39 goals in just 51 league games during his first two seasons with Inter showed the Brazilian was a force to be reckoned with.

Image: Getty Images

International arrival

The 1998 World Cup was Ronaldo’s first and the 21 year old was the star attraction. Four goals and three assists helped guide Brazil to the final. The hosts France, buoyed by patriotic home support awaited them in the final. Ronaldo suffered convulsive fits in the lead up to the game and the Brazilians informed the shocked media an hour before the match that the star player of the tournament would not play. They then changed their minds, allegedly against medical advice, and put a clearly ill Ronaldo on the pitch. France would win 3-0 and Ronaldo would need to wait 4 more years for his glorious moment.

21st of November, 1999. A date when the football world suffered an incredible blow. Ronaldo was playing against Lecce when the striker ruptured a tendon in his knee. This would be the first in a series of knee injuries for the striker. For a player so reliant on his explosive acceleration and strength, the injury against Lecce was an unfortunate blow.

“Ronaldo was my hero. He was the best striker I’ve ever seen. He was so fast he could score from nothing, and could shoot the ball better than anyone.”

Lionel Messi, the Argentinian superstar, admitting that his favourite striker of all time was the Brazilian, Ronaldo.  Messi clearly has the sense to put international rivalry to one side when admitting who was the best attacking talent ever to have graced a pitch. Such was the measure of the man, Ronaldo was able to bounce back from his injury at Lecce. Even though he only managed 7 minutes of football over the next 21 months, Ronaldo would make a return during the 2001-2002 season.

World Cup miracle

7 goals in 16 games showed the striker was struggling to cope on his return. Hopes were slightly subdued for the World Cup in 2002. He had missed the qualification campaign, Ronaldo made one of the most remarkable comebacks of all time by scoring eight goals in the tournament. He lifted the World Cup trophy, four years after the bitter disappointment in France, and also collected the Golden Ball for good measure.

“My favourite Brazilian footballer of all time is Ronaldo. I was fortunate enough to play against him many times, and I was lucky enough to play against him before he got those serious injuries that affected his career. He was a formidable player, a sensational player. He was sort of like an alien because of what he could do on the pitch. The fact that a footballer like him is not remembered as the best player of all time is a great tragedy in my opinion. He had all the skills he needed to be the best ever.”

Gianluigi Buffon, one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time, heaped praise on Ronaldo when discussing his career. Right after the 2002 World Cup, Real Madrid were convinced to spend 46 million euro on a player that had hardly played any club football for the previous two years.  Injury meant that his debut did not occur until October. The fans need not have worried. When Ronaldo did make his debut, the goals soon followed in the side full of Galaticos. 23 goals in just 31 league games helped Madrid to trimph in La Liga. Amazingly it was Ronaldo’s first league medal on European soil, nine years after arriving at PSV.

Ronaldo at Madrid
Image: AP

Nearly back to his best

The following season looked like being a record breaking one for Madrid. They were focused on winning the treble and with Ronaldo firing on all cylinders, few doubted that it was possible.  The Old Trafford faithful came him a standing ovation after a scintillating hat-trick against United in the Champions League. Unfortunately injury would strike down the Brazilian superstar again just before the final stretch of the season. Without their inspirational forward, Madrid crashed out of the Copa Del Rey and the Champions League.To compund matters, Madrid also couldn’t finish the top of La Liga.

During the following two seasons, Ronaldo would suffer more and more from injuries. Appearances became rarer and at the end of the 2006-2007 campaign, it was revealed that Ronaldo would be returning to Milan, this time to play for AC. 104 goals in 177 games during his time in Spain illustrated how Ronaldo still knew how to score goals at the top level.

“He went to Holland, Spain and Italy and enhanced the reputation of Brazilian football in all three countries. He came back home and breathed new life into the Brazilian championship and Corinthians. Brazilian people should be grateful for what he’s done for our football.”

Pele hit the nail on the head when giving his assessment on the career of Ronaldo. Clarence Seedorf simply said that he was “the best player I have seen in my career”. Injuries robbed us of Ronaldo’s prime years, but even during the height of his struggles for fitness, there were enough magical moments to captivate the world.

His explosion on the European scene at the age of 17, when he would run around keepers every other week before tapping the ball home, was unprecedented. Winning the World Cup 2002 in such style, immediately after nearly two years out of the game with injury, shows the measure of the man.  There should be no doubt that Ronaldo is a bigger legend than his namesake for Portugal.

Ronaldo V Ronaldo: The case for  the Portuguese superstar

ronaldo photo

By Jose F.

The first transfer fee paid for Ronaldo was just over $2,000. At the age of 12, Sporting decided on the paltry fee to sign the youngster who had been very impressive during a three day trial. Ronaldo left the island of Madeira to move to Lisbon. Four years later, he would make his debut for Sporting’s first team. The oppostion was Morirense and Ronaldo showed a glimpse of what was to come buy scoring two goals. During that first and only season with Sporting, Ronaldo scored 5 goals in 31 games.

“After we played Sporting last week, the lads in the dressing room talked about him constantly, and on the plane back from the game they urged me to sign him. That’s how highly they rated him”.

Alex Ferguson quickly decided to spend the 15 million euro needed to secure the winger’s signature.  When Ronaldo arrived at Old Trafford from Sporting Lisbon, many were quick to dismiss the youngster as all style, no substance. Ronaldo’s first season proved difficult as he adapted to the high pressure, rushed English game. There were too many stepovers, unnecessary flicks and considerable frustration.

ronaldo madrid photo

Exploding on to the scene

Ronaldo’s first season ended with a FA Cup medal, with the Portuguese star scoring the opening goal in the final. While his first season ended with only 6 goals in 40 games, Ronaldo had already showed why he would become one of the greatest players of all time; constant self-improvement. During that summer, he would help guide Portugal to the final of the Euros where they lost to a brutally efficient Greek team. Ronaldo’s tears at the final whistle showed how much playing for his country meant to him. 12 years later, he would have his moment.

“When Cristiano Ronaldo gets the ball, you can just leave him top it while he beats player after player”

Ryan Giggs, one of the masters of dribbling, describing the natural skill of his United teammate. Ronaldo’s success is down to hard work. While he has natural ability in abundance, his meteoric rise at Old Trafford was down to the work on the training ground. This work ethic would prove to be the main pillar for his continuing success.

Continuous improvement

6, 9, 12, 23, 42, 26. The number of goals per season Ronaldo scored during his 6 seasons at United.  3 Premier League titles, one FA Cup, two League Cups, a FIFA World Cup Medal and a Champions League victory. No wonder United fans were devastated when they lost CR7 to Madrid. In 2008, Ronaldo won the Ballon d’Or,  the FIFA World Player of the year, PFA Player’s Player of the Year, Man United goal of the season, the Premier League Golden boot and many, many more. Too many in fact to list here.

“Ronaldo is better than George best and Denis Law, who were two brilliant and great players in the history of United”

Johan Cruyff, the Dutch conductor of total football, describing how good Ronaldo is compared to legends of a bygone era. When Alex Ferguson eventually decided to sell Madrid something other than a virus, Old Trafford lost their most naturally gifted player of all time.

ronaldo madrid photo

World record breaker

80 million pounds meant that Ronaldo’s transfer had smashed the world record. For good measure, the buyout clause was 1 billion euro. China, anyone? What happened after he joined Real has been well documented at this stage. Club and European records have been surpassed at a rapid rate by Ronaldo. With the exception of perhaps making an argument for a certain Argentinian, there was no doubt who the best player in world is.

33, 53, 60, 55, 51, 61, 51. The goal scoring figures for Ronaldo’s seven full seasons so fear at the Bernabeau. It’s simply incredible. Logic defying numbers. At the time of writing, Ronaldo has scored 392 goals in 385 games for Real Madrid. While managers everywhere are desperate to sign a forward that can score a ‘goal every other game’, Ronaldo scores more than a goal per game.

Success wherever he goes

Ronaldo has had to deal with an ever changing line-up at Real. Managers have quickly come and gone, while players spend being shipped in and shipped out of the club. Such volatility would normally impact a player’s performance, but Ronaldo just gets on with the show. “Could he do it on a wet and windy Tuesday night in Stoke?”. Yes, he would probably get a hat-trick.

“Ronaldo can do whatever he wants as a soccer player. There are some things he does with the ball that make me touch my head and wonder how he did it”.

Real and Barca legend, Luis Figo, illustrating the unique talent that Ronaldo possesses. While his brilliancy has been shown consistently over his years at Real, the basket case of a club has struggled with other areas on and off the pitch. Only one La Liga title and two Copa Del Reys have been secured so far. However, Ronaldo has also won the Champions League twice, and with Zidane now in charge, you wouldn’t bet against more domestic and European titles coming soon.

ronaldo madrid photo

Heartbreak to triumph

The biggest disappointment of Ronaldo’s career was Portugal’s defeat to Greece in the Euro 2004 final. On home soil, the very talented Poruguese side were outfought by a disciplined Greek team.  Tears streamed from the youngster’s face as Portugal missed out on their first major trophy. Such is the measure of Ronaldo’s abiity to bounce back, he would get his hands n the European Championships Trophy in 2016.

Ronaldo is Portugal. Just like Bale for Wales, Portugal playing without their captain and star player just doesn’t feel right. While there were talented players in the Portuguese squad for the tournament, the brutal truth is that without Ronaldo, they probably wouldn’t have gone very far. Every match was a tight affair. While other fancied countries were strolling through the group stages, Portugal struggled. Three draws were enough to advance through based on the new format of the Championships.

Euro Glory

Ronaldo had started the tournament slowly, failing to convert a number of chances in the first two games. The crunch match against Hungary followed and Ronaldo raised his game to match the occasion. Two goals and an assist in a 3-3 draw brought Portugal through to the knock-out rounds. In the Round of 16, Quaresma rebounded Ronaldo’s shot to give them a 1-0 over the fancied Croats. Ronaldo stepped up first to show the way to his teammates in the quarter final penalty shoot out win over Poland.

Wales were up in the semi-finals. Once again Ronaldo rose to the occasion. One goal and one assist gave Portugal a two-nil victory. In the final, a clumsy tackle by Payet saw Ronaldo being taken off after 25 minutes. Instead of feeling sorry for himself, the Portuguese captain stood in the technical zone urging his teammates to secure their place in history. An Eder strike in extra-time gave Portugal their first ever major trophy.

Credit where credit’s due

Ronaldo sometimes doesn’t get the credit he deserves. Opposition fans see him as arrogant and self-absorbed. In the Ronaldo documentary, it becomes clear that the Real Madrid striker is simply obsessed with being the best. It drives him every morning when he wakes up. The boy from Madeira has exceeded al expectations and will rightly go down as one of the best, if not the best, of all time.

What do you think? The two Ronaldos have changed the football world with their dazzling skills. Both have achieved nearly everything there is to achieve in the game. While Brazilian Ronaldo retired a few years, his namesake for Portugal continues to break records. Who do you think is the biggest legend of the game? Let us know by voting below:


Next Article: Guardiola V Pellegrini: Who is the better manager?

Main Image: Football Daily 

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2. Photo by Jan S0L0

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