When you talk about natural strikers, there weren't many better than the legendary Brazilian forward Ronaldo.

He achieved so much success during his career and played in several of the greatest teams with some of the greatest players of all time.

Born on the streets of Rio de Janeiro, Luis Nazario de Lima, better known as Ronaldo, was destined to become a footballing great from an early age. He began his football career with Brazilian side Cruzeiro in 1993 at the age of seventeen and scored 34 goals in as many games in all competitions in his first and only year with the Belo Horizonte club, aiding the team in winning the Copa do Brasil championship for the first time.

With such an incredible scoring record for a rookie in his debut season, it wasn't long before the big teams from across Europe began scouting the teenage prodigy.

Ronaldo was selected to be part of Brazil's World Cup squad for the 1994 tournament in which the Selecao were crowned world champions for a fourth time; however, the young striker did not feature in his country's run to the final despite winning his first four caps earlier that year.

The young Brazilian striker joined Dutch side PSV Eindhoven following the tournament. International team-mate Romario had previously played for the club and this factor contributed in bringing the youngster from Brazil to Europe, where many felt he was destined to be. Ronaldo made the most auspicious of starts to his career in Holland, scoring 30 league goals for the Eindhoven side in his first season to show the world what a talent he was.

During his second season, Ronaldo suffered a knee injury which put him out of contention for much of the season. However, he still managed to score 12 times in 13 appearances and helped his side win the Dutch Cup in 1996. A move to one of Europe's heavyweights beckoned.

And so was the case as the free-scoring striker joined Spanish giants Barcelona in the summer of '96 for a fee of around £15m. Ronaldo only spent one season with the Catalan club, scoring 47 goals in 49 games and aiding the team in winning the Spanish Super Cup later that year and also the Copa del Rey and the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, both in 1997.

At the age of 20, Ronaldo became the youngest player to win the FIFA World Player of the Year in '96 and the striker also finished as runner-up for the Ballon d'Or. By '97, Ronaldo had established himself as a first team regular for Brazil and scored 15 goals in 20 matches for his country that year.

Ronaldo's time at Barcelona was short, following a contract dispute which saw the forward join Serie A side Inter Milan for a fee in the region of £19m, which was a world record transfer record. As his reputation continued to grow he became known as "The Phenomenon" due to his goalscoring exploits and his blistering pace.  He won the Ballon d'Or and FIFA Player of the Year in 1997 before helping the Nerazzurri win the UEFA Cup the following year.

Ronaldo was gaining momentum and was the most in-form striker heading into the 1998 World Cup. He scored four goals as Brazil dispatched the likes of the Netherlands, Chile and Denmark en route to facing the hosts France in a bid to retain the prestigious trophy. The night before the final, the striker suffered a fit and was initially removed from the starting line-up only to be placed back in the No.9 spot just before kick-off.

Brazil's talisman was off the pace as France dominated Brazil and lifted the trophy following a 3-0 win. Despite not taking home a World Cup winners' medal, Ronaldo received the Golden Ball for after being voted the tournament's best player.

Ronaldo's next few years at Inter were hampered by injury. The reoccurrence of the knee problems he'd suffered at PSV put the striker on the sidelines for the best part of four years. Following two operations and months of rehab, Ronaldo returned in time for Brazil's World Cup campaign in Korea/Japan in 2002. Many claimed that the striker was past his best upon returning from the injury that had cost him possibly some of the best years of his career.

However, Ronaldo proved the critics wrong by forming a deadly partnership with Rivaldo up front, scoring 13 goals between them. Ronaldo scored the majority with eight, including two in the final against Germany, ensuring his country lifted the trophy for a record fifth time and thus being awarded with the Golden Boot for being the top goalscorer of the tournament.

That same summer, after the World Cup triumph for Brazil, Ronaldo earned himself a move to Real Madrid and became the club's third major signing in as many years with Zinedine Zidane joining Los Blancos in 2001 and Luis Figo in 2000.

During this period the Spanish giants became known as Los Galacticos for their spending power and reputation for signing high-profile players. In the summer of 2002, Ronaldo joined Real for a fee in the region of £45m and in his first season he scored 30 goals in all competitions, despite the injury that sidelined him for the first three months of the season.

He helped his side win the La Liga title in 2003. He continued to score regularly for Los Blancos before Ruud van Nistelrooy was signed in 2006 and he fell out with then Real head coach Fabio Capello.

During the 2006 World Cup, Ronaldo scored three goals for Brazil in the finals, including the first in 3-0 over Ghana which subsequently ensured that the striker replaced Gerd Muller as the top World Cup goalscorer of all time with 15 goals.

However, Brazil were knocked out in the second round, against the old enemy, France. Following the tournament Ronaldo did not play for his country again until his farewell match in 2011. 

After a brief stint with AC Milan, Ronaldo returned home to play for Brazilian side Corinthians. He scored 35 goals in the two years he spent with the Sao Paulo club before announcing his retirement from the game in 2011. His final match came for Brazil against Romania in which his country won by a goal to nil.

All in all, Ronaldo scored a staggering 425 goals in 631 competitive matches during a fantastic career. He also played 98 times for Brazil and scored 62 times for his country. He is considered by many experts and fans (including myself) to be one of the greatest players of all time, and with his goal record, his number of awards and his record number of World Cup goals, it's not hard to see why.

 

DISCLAIMER: This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeFootball Writing Academy and does not represent the views of GiveMeFootball.com or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. GiveMeFootball.com and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

 

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