In his latest guest editorial, David Donaldson debates the question that has troubled football fans in recent years: just who is the ultimate Ronaldo?
Over the years, several players named Ronaldo have made history in the world of soccer. It’s a name you’ll hear frequently among top player rankings and you’ll be surprised to learn that are at least seven professional players with the name, six them from Brazil alone and a lone one from Portugal. Although all of them have made brilliant careers, both in their home countries and abroad, two of these men rise above them all and are considered to be some of the greatest players in the history of the sport.
These two men are Ronaldo Luis Nazario de Lima, the first name most people think of when they hear “Ronaldo”, who played a season in our beloved Barcelona (though actually the earliest pro soccer player with this name is Ronaldo Rodrigues de Jesus, who debuted professionally in the 1986 season and retired in 1995), and Cristiano Ronaldo: one of the top players in contemporary European league soccer. Both men are greatly admired not only in their home countries, but the world over. Along with Nazario de Lima’s compatriot Pelé and Argentinian colleagues Lionel Messi and Diego Armando Maradona they are some of the most recognizable sportsmen in the world, and have made fortunes for their athletic feats that are beyond what most of us can even begin to imagine.
Now let’s take a look at both careers:
Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro is a native of the city of Funchal, in the autonomous island region of Madeira, Portugal. By age 8, Cristiano was already playing for amateur team Andorinha FC; two years later he signed up with Clube Desportivo Nacional da Madeira, where his performance impressed the owners of Sporting Clube Portugal so much that took him on a 3 dial trial and subsequently signed him up for a starting spot on the team. CD Nacional honored Cristiano by naming their youth training facilities after him.
After success in his home country, Cristiano Ronaldo’s talents took him to England, where he would play with Manchester United for the next six seasons, where he would collect a series of accolades for his on field exploits, including being the second ever player on the club to win the Ballon D’or, behind legendary Man Utd. player George Best.
He signed up with his current club, Real Madrid in 2009, where he’s currently team captain, since then he’s broken all sort of records, including being the first player to score a goal against every single team in Spanish La Liga during a single season, most goals scored in a single UEFA Champions League season, among other honours. He’s a veteran of three UEFA European Championships and three FIFA World Cups.
Outside of the field, he’s best known for his work in fashion, with brands such as Emporio Armani, and his philanthropic work with Children’s rights NGO Save the Children, where he’s been Global Artist Ambassador since 2013.
Ronaldo Luis Nazario de Lima
Named after his father’s favorite actor, Ronald Reagan, Ronaldo is one of the most famous soccer players on earth, the legendary striker began his pro career at the age of sixteen in Cruzeiro Esporte Clube, based out of Belo Horizonte. At Cruzeiro, Ronaldo managed to score an impressive 44 goals over 47 games, a year later he signed with Dutch club, where he scored 54 goals over two seasons.
For the 96-97 season, he played for FC Barcelona, who played a record sum of £12.6 million for his contract, where he led the Blaugranes to victory in the Copa del Rey and Spanish Super Copa. In 1997 he won the European Golden Shoe, by the time his stint with Barcelona was over, he had scored 34 goals over 37 different games.
During his time with Barcelona, he scored what is widely considered to be his greatest career goal in a game against Santiago de Compostela, where he manages to outrun two defenders at close quarters and score with incredible speed, and this was so impressive that Nike used footage from the game to make this commercial where they ask: “What if God made you the best soccer player in the world?” By the end of the 1996 season, Ronaldo became the youngest player ever to win FIFA’s World Player of the Year Award. Ronaldo kept playing with several European teams, including both Inter and AC Milan and Real Madrid, before returning to his native Brazil to play with SC Corinthians, where he played until 2011, when he announced he would be retiring definitely because the many serious injuries he sustained during his career had finally taken its toll on his health.
Since his retirement, Ronaldo has not only worked on football, he also is a Good Will Ambassador with the United Nations, an entrepreneur who owns a stake on United States soccer team Fort Lauderdale Strikers, A1 Team Brazil (a Formula A1 racing team) and sports marketing company 9INE, that he co-owns with MMA star Anderson Silva. As a side activity, Ronaldo’s now playing in the professional poker circuit and playing online in big poker rooms like PokerStars and Full Tilt, thought in the past he’s been eliminated by Spanish tennis player, Rafael Nadal, he’s probably going to have a bright second career in cards, where he’ll surely reach the high stakes tables.
Ronaldo Luis Nazario da Lima, is, in this writer’s humble opinion, the greater of the two, if only because we’re still at a point where CR7 still has a lot of his career ahead of him. Pitting him against a living legend wouldn’t be fair yet, when Cristiano still has so much more unwritten history ahead of himself, Ronaldo’s achievements can now be marked with a clear beginning and an end. So maybe in a few years we’ll see.