Ronaldo Luiz Nazario de Lima is rightly lauded as one of the best footballers to play the game.
At the height of his powers he was making fun of Alessandro Nesta and the rest of the world’s best defenders, winning titles in four different countries and lifting the World Cup twice.
But one of the stranger periods of his career was between 1997 and 2002, while playing for Inter Milan.
Here’s the story of how Ronaldo only one one title, the 1998 UEFA Cup triumph, despite playing in one of the best sides ever assembled in Serie A.
Year 1: Beaten by Juventus’ magic midfield
Ronaldo’s world record arrival from Barcelona transformed Inter into title challengers, as the Brazilian linked up with Diego Simeone, Youri Djokaeff and Ivan Zamorano.
But Juventus’ midfield of Zinedine Zidane, Edgar Davids, Didier Deschamps and Antonio Conte was too much for even Ronaldo’s genius to overcome, with The Old Lady winning the title by five points.
The 20-year-old could take solace in the fact that Inter won the UEFA Cup, beating a Lazio side containing Pavel Nedved, Nesta and Roberto Mancini 3-0, with Ronaldo scoring the last goal.
Year 2: The arrival of Woy
Inter’s 1998/99 campaign was a complete write off, comprising of an eight placed league finish, four managers, one of whom was Roy Hodgson, and a quarter-final exit from the Champions League.
More concerning, however, was the fact that Ronaldo only played 19 league games, with knee injuries plaguing his fitness throughout the season.
It meant there was no time for a partnership between Ronaldo and Baggio to flourish, although the Brazilian still finished as Inter’s top scorer with 14 goals.
Year 3: Breakdown
On paper, the arrival of Christian Vieiri in a world record transfer fee, paired with Ronaldo and managed by Marcello Lippi was meant to help Inter walk Serie A.
But an innocuous fall against Lecce in November saw Ronaldo rupture tendons in his knee, and his attempted return against Lazio five months later only lasted seven minutes.
Ronaldo, as we knew and loved him, was done. His explosive speed would never return, although he still had mesmeric ball control and the ability to finish from anywhere when fit.
He only played seven league games as Inter finished fourth, a result that saw Lippi get the sack.
Year 4: Blackout
This would be the darkest season of Ronaldo’s career.
He didn’t step foot on the pitch once in the league, with Inter floundering in his absence.
A Champions League qualifying loss against Helsinborg meant Inter didn’t qualify for the group stages, while the goals of Vieri weren’t enough to help the club finish higher than fifth in Serie A.
When you look at the spine of the team- Blanc, Seedorf, Vieri- it’s a travesty that Inter didn’t do better, although for a neutral the sight of Francesco Totti lifting the title with Roma was a sight to behold.
Year 5: The return of El Fenomeno
Ronaldo got himself back into shape ahead of the 2001/02 season, which was just as well considering he’d come up against Titus Bramble’s Ipswich in the UEFA Cup.
He proved his fitness ahead of the 2002 World Cup by playing 25 times in all competitions, scoring 16 goals, although only ten of those games came in the league.
Juventus, spearheaded by the magnificent striker partnership of David Trezeguet and Del Piero, won a 26th league title, with Inter and Ronaldo having to make do with third.
Inter got all the way to the semi-final of the Champions League before they were surprisingly beaten by Pierre van Hooijdonk’s Feyenoord.
After 99 games and 59 goals Ronaldo’s Inter career was over. He headed to Spain to become Real Madrid’s latest galactico, taking his one and only trophy with him.
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