A footballing phenomenon hangs up his boots this week as Brazilian legend Ronaldo calls time on a sensational career. In the final installment of a 5 part series to be played out over the course of this week, Kevyn Doran takes a trip down memory lane and looks at the special moments that defined a superstar.
Part 5: Legacy
Friday, 18th February 2011
So here we are, one week on. It was a week of reminiscing about moments that made us fall in love with this game, moments that filled our hearts with joy. We recalled moments that took our breath away and quite simply, moments that put smiles on our faces. It would be easy to fall into a trap of thinking that these smiles will forever be in the past tense, that the setting sun on a wonderful career condemns all to the memories of yesteryear. One could be forgiven for thinking that the heartbreaking circumstances and the unceremonious culmination of a player’s career would unfortunately linger forever more in our minds, perhaps more than the fond memories that came previous. It’s melodramatic, of course, but think of it as something similar to the death of a loved one. It takes time to be able to fondly reminisce and celebrate a life lived rather than mourn a life lost. Regret is a most dominant of feelings, but it is one we eventually learn to look beyond. As Theodore Seuss Geisel – better known as Dr. Seuss – once said – “don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
Well, I’m smiling. Much like Ronaldo himself who never lost that affectionate grin despite all the adversity and affliction throughout his career. I’m still smiling because I realise I don’t have to reminisce anymore. I will still gladly play back his finest of occasions, and I’ll still celebrate his most laudable of achievements, but I don’t need to look backwards to appreciate what Ronaldo has done for this game. Every time a player score a wonderful goal, I’ll think of the striker who knew nothing but the spectacular. Every time the camera zooms in on a player’s new customised boots, I’ll think of the superstar who launched worldwide advertising campaigns that reached every corner of the globe. And every time I see a player take to the field with a smile on his face, I’ll think of the boy from Bento Ribeiro who wore his heart on his sleeve and joy in his features. Ronaldo was a player who you only needed one glance of to realise his passion for the game, and far beyond the goals, the successes and the trophies, if a player does not have a passion clear to behold, then he cannot capture our imagination. We want players who score goals not for the money, not for the fame and not for the attention, but for the sole reason of wanting to score a goal because it’s what made them happy as children. When Ronaldo dodged school as a child to go play football on the beaches with the older children, he didn’t do it in anticipation of the riches and celebrity it would bring him, he did it because of the happiness and joy it brought him, and that was something that was perceptibly evident each and every time he kicked a football. That is what made him truly special.
There are many ways of measuring the the greatest players, each method with it’s own merits. Statistics, accomplishments, longevity, value – each one has it’s place in how us outsiders establish our favourites. However, I truly believe that there is no component greater than the opinion of that player’s peers, and despite all the goals, trophies and transfer fees, this is where – in my opinion – Ronaldo goes down as greatest player we will ever witness. So, rather than conclude this series with a list of magnanimous superlatives, I am simply going to leave you with sound bites from his fellow professionals – mentors, teammates and rivals – on what Ronaldo meant to them. Thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoyed my humble tribute to a once in a lifetime player.
Reporter: I know it’s a difficult question, but who is the best player you played with or against in your career?
Zinedine Zidane: Without hesitation, Ronaldo. For journalists in general, what makes a very good player is what you win. It’s a function of what you do on the pitch, and the titles you win. I think, on a personal level, the difference is actually – why I say Ronaldo is number one – is every day I trained with him, and every day it would be different. Every day I saw something new – something beautiful. That’s what makes the difference – for me – between a very good player and the exception who, for me, is Ronaldo.
Sir Bobby Robson: Working with Ronaldo whilst at Barcelona remains one of the highlights of my career. Some of the football he played is perhaps the most breathtakingly brilliant I have ever witnessed. Players of his ability come along perhaps once in a generation or so, and with the combination of his heaven-sent talent and his wonderful personality, it is no wonder he is so supremely popular and respected in the world of football. He plays football the way it should be played – fairly and with a smile. As footballing superstars go, they don’t come much better.
Vicente Del Bosque: Ronaldo is different to all other footballers. Other footballers are fast without the ball and then slow when they get it. Ronaldo, he is the opposite. He is simply incredible.
Gabriel Batistuta: For me, Ronaldo is football.
Ronaldinho: Ronaldo is the master, the eternal number one. In my opinion, he is still the best in the world.
Juan Antonio Pizzi: I play football. Ronaldo? He plays something different altogether.
Kaka: I would like to thank Ronaldo for everything he did for sport, soccer, Brazil and the millions of people around the world. He is an example. It is with great pride that I can say I played with one of the best soccer players ever.
Alessandro Del Piero: I have always believed that the greatness of a player is also measured by the greatness of his opponents, of the great duels that even a team sport like football can produce. Ronaldo’s years in Italy, his first spell at Inter, were characterised by our duels. Del Piero vs Ronaldo. Juve vs Inter. At the end of the game we always went looking for each other to swap shirts. Ronaldo was one of the players who I respected the most. What Ronaldo did will forever remain in the history of football and in the eyes of the people who love this sport, independently of the colour of their shirt, of their support, of the flags. Players like Ronaldo belong to everybody. It was touching to hear Ronaldo say, amid the tears, in his goodbye press conference the phrase ‘it’s like I am dying’ because the footballer Ronaldo won’t be there anymore. But luckily for him a new life starts now. Thanks for what you did on the pitch and for being a great opponent, Fenomeno.