Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima
-All before the age of 21 Ronaldo de lima had played 167 games for club and country and scored 154 goals.
– His finishing and composure in front of goal as a 16 year old at Cruzeiro(where he bagged 44 goals in his first 47 games) is down right scary. He looks so assured as he calmly opens his body and slides the ball past the keeper. He is smiling every time he gets a 1 on 1. There is no any way around it he was born to do this and it’s even more terrifying when you realise it only got better from there.
– His inclusion in the 94 squad was testament to his other worldly ability. As a bright eyed 17 year old, most coaches said he was the most talented player in camp and that years Balon do’r winner Rivaldo easily recognized the talent Ronaldo had, took him under his wing and engineering the move to PSV.
– Ronaldo was the world’s most complete striker when he joined PSV as a 17 year old, he was the most pure striking prodigy to ever grace a football field. They were fast players, strong players, skillful players and tremendous finishers at the time but none combined all 4 like El Fenómeno. He beat defenders in all ways, so fast that teams playing the high line were down right stupid for doing so but unlike other speed merchants Ronaldo could not be bullied off the ball so coming to close was even worse as his power and desire for goals made him a defenders worst nightmare all before factoring in what separated him from any striking prospect before or since his magical feet, be it the blurry stepovers at full speed or seeing such a bull like striker stop his charge on a dime and fake left and go right with elegance of a swan is still mesmerizing to this day. What could a defender honestly do to stop this genius from bearing down on goal? All these traits are on display during a thrilling and frantic 5-4 loss to Bayer Leverkusen in September 1994 where he bagged a hattrick and made everyone in Europe take notice no longer was he the next Rivaldo he was now seen as an equal or even better depending on who you consult.
– To think Ronaldo’s Knee problems started at 19 with him missing time in his last season at PSV leaves me so empty. The frailties of the human body robbed us of seeing a the ideal striker function at all the positions possible limits. These injuries chipped away at him little by little taking a little speed, explosiveness, strength and most importantly desire from the best prospect maybe ever but the human body wasn’t made to function this way. Plunging all one’s weight on one foot before exploding with such intense ferocity on to the other, going from 100 to 0 and then back again to 100 all within 10 seconds and to repeatedly and rapidly move one’s feet over a football at full speed and then suddenly stop, no wonder his knees gave out the gift began to erode the body and fade out. It was too much but still so great in fact that I assume Ronaldo was only 70% the player he was suppoesed to be when he set the world alight in 98 as a 21 year old whose body had began to fail him.
– In 02 the Football Gods decided to be merciful and for one quick month we got to see it. The perfect striker prospect put it all on display for one month even he looked suprised as he had spent the last 3 years recovering from a nuke going off in his knee which is even more sad as I assume he was going at probably 80% of what he could actually be. This tournament ushered in his second life no longer the prospect who lit the world on fire and looked well on his way to being the best ever, he was a hollow shell of the pace, power and technique that made defenses look foolish as a bright eyed 19 year old. In what should’ve been his prime a 26-29 Ronaldo gave us the greatest example of how deep his well of talent ran picking his spots and without the start-stop-start again pace or his blurry stepovers at full speed and on basically one knee he used what was left to score 68 goals in 100 games in what was supposed to be his prime great for anyone else really but extremely disappointing for him. His standards were that high.
– To answer the question was he the greatest prospect ever? The answer in my opinion is yes cause unlike other 17 year old tremendous prospects like Messi, Ronaldo,Neymar or Mbappe(right now) being great wasn’t enough he had to be the greatest or his career would be a disappointment. If Mbappe becomes a top 5 or 10 player ever that’s good enough for everyone but Ronaldo is an actual top 5 or 10 player ever and yet his career feels empty, name me a player with multiple Balon do’rs who didn’t fulfill his potential? name me a player with 2 world cup winners medals and 2 copa Americas who only achieved 70% of what he should’ve been? I am certain if El Fenómeno was allowed to flourish without injuries he would undoubtedly be in the Messi, Ronaldo conversation which may seem blasphemous but his career arc at 21 is not only matched only by them but Ronaldo’s numbers stand head and shoulders above the two as a teen with it being a no contest in terms of raw production. Ronaldo was a leading figure at the same age the other two were still growing within their teams and if we get technical and only consider all 3’s first Balon dor seasons(which coincidently happened for all 3 at 21) here are the stats:
CR7- 49 games 42 goals.
Messi- 51 games 39 goals.
El Fenómeno- 49 games 47 goals.
Even when considering position limitations for the other two it’s clear these 3 are still the only players to post such jaw dropping production for their ages and of all 3’s massive production Ronaldo had been producing at this level for 4 years while the other two only began to produce like this after their 21st birthdays. Ronaldo not only had the same career trajectory arc as the other two but he seemed the superior player when all 3 started hitting their stride think about that?
-He showed so much promise as a teen that being top 5 at the end of it all isn’t enough he was supposed to be the greatest and that was that. Anything else was a miss. He had without question the highest bar ever set for a footballing prospect ever and it’s that fact that makes him undoubtedly Footballs greatest Prospect.