Before the era of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, it was one man’s time — Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima.
The two-time World Cup-winning Brazilian striker ruled the world before his 21st birthday as he burst onto the European scene with a remarkable 101 goals in just 106 matches for PSV Eindhoven and Barcelona.
Ronaldo went on to play for Inter Milan, Real Madrid, and even AC Milan in his injury-stricken career. He scored a humongous 352 goals in 518 games, and some believe that if it wasn’t for the knee injuries at the turn of the century, he would have been even better.
Roberto Carlos though believes that Ronaldo was ‘the best’. “Ronaldo stood out in training. He was the best. There will never be another Ronaldo Fenomeno,” said Carlos to Goal at the Heineken Legends Challenge.
“Not Neymar, Cristiano, or Messi — Ronaldo is unique. I think in our generation it was harder to score goals. It was more physical back then and attackers were less protected. But Ronaldo could do everything.”
Even legendary manager Jose Mourinho believes that the two-time Ballon d’Or winner was the best player he has ever seen, although he has managed the five-time Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid.
“If we are talking strictly about talent and skill, nobody surpasses Ronaldo. When he was at Barcelona with Bobby Robson, I realised that he was the best player I’d ever seen take to the field,” Mourinho told LiveScore earlier.
“Injuries killed a career that could have been even more incredible, but the talent that that 19-year-old boy had was something incredible.”
Despite the injuries, Ronaldo became the all-time highest goalscorer (15) in the FIFA World Cup history until the record was broken by Germany’s Miroslav Klose in the 2014 edition (16).
Apart from the world titles, Ronaldo also won the Copa America twice, and was part of the team which won the bronze medal at the 1994 Olympics. He has won the La Liga, Copa del Rey, UEFA Cup at the club level.