On Sunday night the greatest striker of the modern generation said his goodbyes to a stadium full of fans screaming “O Fênomeno”. His team had just beaten Santos 3-1 in the Sao Paulo state championship “clasico”, where every one of his team-mates wore a number 9 and his nickname on the back of their shirts as tribute. After the match he did a lap of honour where he was given a standing ovation from both sets of supporters. This was such a dignified and humble way to retire for one of the all-time greats.
This time last week an emotional Ronaldo announced to the world that he had made the difficult decision to retire from football at the age of 34. In his statement he said “It’s very hard for me to leave something that made me so happy. I still want to play but I have to admit some defeats. Mentally I still want to play but I have to accept I lost to my body.” He had been battling hypothyroidism, a deficiency of thyroid hormone for many years which affected his ability to keep his weight under control. The Brazilian also confirmed a muscle injury sustained in the previous week had triggered his decision to retire.
Football can be a very fickle mother sometimes but I hope that Ronaldo will be remembered for all the reasons that made him known to the world as “O Fênomeno”. It is of course open to debate but I believe Ronaldo to be the greatest striker ever – better than the likes of Pele, Maradona and Messi. It was his sheer speed, strength, skill and instinct that sets him alone as the world’s very best goalscorer. He played for some of the greatest teams in the world and his goal record is, well, phenomenal.
We will always remember Des Lynam telling us Ronaldo was sensationally not in the Brazil team for the World Cup Final before informing us minutes later he will play! What happened that night is anyone’s guess, but ‘the comeback kid’ was back in town 4 years later by scoring the two goals for Brazil to win the World Cup in 2002. The goal that most typifies Ronaldo for me is the one he scores against Compostela, where everything brilliant about Ronaldo can be seen in this goal.
In my opinion, the way he retired on Valentines Day was no coincidence as he clearly showed his love for the game and his fans, with every tear as real as the next. He has also retired on his terms so we can remember him as a great, rather than trying to continue and suffer the humility of being a ‘has-been’ whilst damaging his legacy. Too many sporting heroes believe they are invincible and come out of retirement to the detriment of their magnificent careers. Two days after Ronaldo told the world he would retire from football, Lance Armstrong announced his “retirement 2.0”. The seven time Tour de France champion had previously retired in 2005 but made his comeback to the track in 2009, but was unsuccessful in the past two tours – finishing 3rd and then 23rd. Armstrong finished in 67th place in his final competitive race of his career in last month’s Tour Down Under in Australia, a sad end to the career of the cycling icon. Lance Armstrong isn’t the only superstar that came out of retirement hungry for more success in their sport; Michael Schumacher will continue to drive in Formula 1 this season and of course Muhammed Ali’s return to the ring for two defeats was so damaging to his health. I’m glad that Ronaldo knew when it was time to retire as his legacy will live on. I think his former team-mate Romario said it best “I will miss him,” Romario said. “We won’t be able to see one of the greatest players in the history of football.”
By Christopher Treloar – Juventus fan