Ronaldo – the best striker of his, or perhaps any era – has retired at 34. The Brazilian legend was subjected to violence and threats against his family after fans blamed him for Corinthians’ unexpected early exit from the Copa Libratadores. He had been under contract through the end of the season.
“It’s very hard to leave something that made me so happy,” said Ronaldo, with sons Alex and Ronald by his side. “Mentally, I wanted to continue, but I have to acknowledge that I lost (the fight) to my body.”
“With this announcement,” he said, “it feels like it’s my first death.”
Ronaldo had flicks and tricks. He could finish with soccer’s elite, but it was his headlong rushes made him “Il Fenomeno.” Fast enough to go around defenders, he instead went through them, taking direct routes and terrifying defenders with his power and pace, while having the superb technical control to not lose track of the ball. The goal itself was often an unchallenging tap in, after he earned his way through on goal.
He became a legend at the World Cup. Brazil selected Ronaldo for four tournaments from 1994-2006. He’s credited for winning in 1994, but he only played in the latter three, leading Brazil to two World Cup Final appearances and setting the record with 15 career goals, eight of them coming during the winning run in 2002. He scored 62 times in 97 appearances for Brazil, second only to Pele.
When healthy Ronaldo excelled at club level as well. From 1994 to 1999 with PSV, Barcelona and Inter Milan, Ronaldo scored 119 league goals in 134 games. He would also score 20 or more goals in the Spanish league three times for Real Madrid. He won the Ballon D’Or twice in 1997 and 2002.
Ronaldo’s accomplishments were incredible, but his injuries will beg the question what “might have been.” He tore knee ligaments four times. Two in succession basically knocked him out for nearly three full seasons from November 1999 through the 2002 World Cup. He also has struggled with weight issues, eventually diagnosed as a symptom stemming from his hypothyroidism.
More Ronaldo Links: Here are his top ten goals. Here is his hat trick for Real Madrid at Old Trafford and Grant Wahl’s account of it. Here is a great restrospective on his career from The Guardian’s Paul Wilson.
The Hangover: International “breaks” are not breaks for soccer’s elite players, who travel across the world for national team matches. When your club is loaded with those players, it can be troublesome. With almost every key contributor away midweek, Barcelona showed their fatigue at the weekend, drawing 1-1 with Sporting Gijon to snap their 16-game winning streak. Conquerers on nearly any other day, the Catalans have won just six of their last 19 matches after an international break. It was Sporting Gijon’s best performance this season, but the lost points paradoxically dropped them four places in the table and leave them just one point above relegation. Real Madrid looked disaster-bound as well against Espanyol, after Iker Casillas was sent off for a soft foul less than two minutes into the match, but they held on with ten men for a 1-0 win.
Minding the Gap: Roberto Mancini thinks Man City are catching up with Man United. He felt they didn’t deserve to lose. He’s right, but they didn’t deserve to win either. Wayne Rooney’s wonder strike gave United a 2-1 win in the Derby, which keeps the Red Devils four points ahead of Arsenal and knocks the Sky Blue a potential 11 points back and out of the race. It was an especially great moment for Rooney who has had an abysmal season recovering from injuries, a marriage-threatening scandal, an awful World Cup and an aborted power play to leave Man U, but Sir Alex Ferguson did not let him enjoy it long.
Back in the Game: Juventus upset Inter Milan 1-0, moving them just three points behind the defending Italian champions for the fourth Champions League place. Juve played a narrow back four with all centerbacks and a defensive midfielder glued to Wesley Sneijder. Gigi Buffon did not even have to make a save in the first half. Inter looked better after second-half changes, but could not find their way through.
Goal of the Week: Wayne Rooney (Manchester United) vs. Manchester City