Before there was Messi and CR7, there was Ronaldo. The original, undisputed Ronaldo, widely recognised as one of the best goalscorers ever and one of the most talented footballers ever to do it.
Now he’s finished terrorising centre-backs for a living, he’s the president of Real Valladolid, and DAZN have been tracking his progress in their new documentary series Ronaldo: El Presidente.
We’re going to focus on his playing career for now, though, and take you on a trip through nine of O Fenomeno’s best performances over the years.
Ronaldo made his professional debut for Cruzeiro aged just 16, and began tearing it up right away.
He scored 44 goals in 47 appearances in total, but the game that really caught the eye came shortly after his 17th birthday against Bahia.
Looking rather gangly for his age, Ronaldo scored five times in a 6-0 victory, netting everything from a towering header to a late poacher’s goal where he nicked the ball from the keeper’s grasp after he net his guard down.
A sign of what was to come.
Ronaldo was Real Madrid‘s top scorer for four straight seasons between 2002-2006, but that didn’t stop him from falling out with Fabio Capello. He clashed with the Italian over issues with his weight, and in January 2007, he sealed a move to AC Milan.
It was a controversial switch as it meant Ronaldo became the first player ever to play on both sides of the Milan divide and both sides of the El Clasico rivalry.
And while it didn’t quite spark the career revival he had hoped for, it got off to a flyer with two goals and an assist against Siena on his first start.
Ronaldo’s glorious career was coming to an end as the 2010s approached, but he had time for one last hurrah in his homeland.
Brazil went into hysteria when it was announced in 2009 that he would return to play for Corinthians, and within a couple of games of his return to the Brazilian Serie A, there were calls for him to be reinstated to the national team.
The pinnacle of his second stint in Brazil came when he masterminded a 3-1 derby victory over Santos, and famously chipped the visiting keeper from 30 yards to make sure of the win.
The combination of Ronaldo and Romario was brief, as Ronaldo shot to prominence just as Romario’s powers were beginning to wane.
But it was also absurdly brilliant. The two played some of their best stuff at the 1997 Confederations Cup, to the dismay of Australia, who were overrun in the final.
Both Ronaldo and Romario netted hat-tricks in one of the most scintillating displays of attacking football Brazil has ever produced…and that’s saying something.
Ronaldo spent just one season at Barcelona. In that year, he was top scorer in La Liga and became the youngest ever player to win the FIFA World Player of the Year – not bad for a year’s work.
It was unfair how much better he was than everyone else, and Valencia certainly felt the weight of that when he took them apart by himself in 1996.
He scored a hat-trick, but his second goal in particular – sprinting from the half-way line and leaving four players in his wake with his raw physicality – was one of the best he ever scored.
The 1994/95 UEFA Cup was hardly a memorable one in the long, storied history of the Dutch giants. But it was a memorable one for Ronaldo, as his hat-trick announced to European football that he was here to stay.
Just 18 at the time, Leverkusen striker Rudi Voller went on to admit he had never seen anything like it from a player so young.
But unfortunately for PSV, Ronaldo’s antics were matched by Bayer’s Ulf Kirsten, whose own hat-trick fired the Germans to a 5-4 win.
You really have to feel for Inter keeper Luca Marchegiani here.
It’s one thing to have Ronaldo bearing down towards you from the halfway line with the ball at his feet, it’s another to have him completely rinse you with a double feint and stroke in the third goal to seal your fate in the UEFA Cup final.
There was just the one goal for Ronaldo in this one against Lazio but it is widely recognised as one of his greatest ever performances.
Man Utd gave almost as good as they got against Real Madrid in 2003. But it was ultimately Ronaldo who was the difference as his showing in the second leg at Old Trafford kept Sir Alex Ferguson’s team at bay.
Real had won the first leg 3-1 in Madrid and United had a real go at getting back into it, resulting in one of the best games in the Champions League’s modern history.
But when Ronaldo is pinging them in from the edge of the box like no one’s business, there’s only so much you can do.
Bit of context heading into this one: 1998 hadn’t been a great World Cup for Ronaldo. Medical issues had hamstrung his involvement, and a fairly anonymous performance in the final against France – who won 3-0 – left his international standing at an all-time low.
So, four years later, he rocked up to Korea and Japan with something to prove. And while injuries had kept him out of the entire qualifying campaign, he took Brazil’s hopes into his own hands at the finals.
He netted six times to fire Brazil to the final, and then made absolutely sure of the Golden Boot with a match-winning performance against Germany in Yokohama.
His two goals clinched the World Cup for his country and announced to the world, Michael Jordan style, that he was back.
Ronaldo is currently the focus of the brand new documentary series, ‘Ronaldo- El Presidente’. Having taken his talents from the pitch to the boardroom, the show follows his life as owner and president of Real Valladolid. You can watch the six-part series exclusively on DAZN now.