No discussion of the greatest players of all time would be complete without Ronaldo. During his career the Brazilian struck an astonishing 414 times, winning two World Cups, two Copa Americas and a trio of FIFA World Player of the Year awards along the way. The greatest goal scorer in World Cup history, he is an undisputed icon of the game.
Ronaldo began his career at Minas Gerais minnows Cruzeiro but soon earned a move to Europe with PSV Eindhoven. It was here he announced himself as one of the most exciting properties in football, scoring 30 goals in his first season and propelling the club to a celebrated Dutch Cup win in 1996.
It was not long before a bidding war broke out for his services as the striker grew unsettled. His average of almost a a goal per game persuaded Barcelona to smash the world transfer record. His 47 goals in 49 appearances for the Catalans made him a legend among not just followers of the Spanish titans but worldwide – his surging runs at defences uniting fans in a way seldom seen. Football is a tribalistic business but when it came to Ronaldo it didn’t matter what club you supported – with his beaming grin and brilliant skill, the Brazilian was a joy to behold on the pitch, no matter your allegiance.
One of the star’s most famous moments came at Old Trafford where in 2003 he was given a standing ovation after a display so mesmerising Manchester United fans could only applaud in admiration. Having moved to Real Madrid via a spell at Inter Milan he turned in three goals for Fabio Capello’s Galacticos to confirm to English fans what was already suspected – Ronaldo was a goal-scoring machine, no matter the venue.
Injury cut short Ronaldo’s career, the forward announcing his retirement at the age of 34 having ventured to AC Milan and finally back to Corinthians in his native Brazil. “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 go,” he said in an emotional press conference. His time on the pitch may have come to an end but memory of his feats will live on for decades to come.