If Champions League sides were ex-girlfriends then Group B would be a very awkward stroll down memory lane for Ronaldo.
Does that make sense? Almost certainly not. But I spent all night watching early Ronaldo compilations so you’ll have to forgive me.
PSV, Inter Milan and Barcelona- all clubs Ronaldo once called home- were drawn together in Group B, alongside Spurs. Unfortunately the closest R9 ever came to playing in England was when he wore this…
Speak to anyone over the age of 35 and they’ll tell you a young Ronaldo was the closest thing you’ll ever see to footballing perfection- and that’s including Lionel Messi.
Well, they might look at you funny and wonder why you’re talking to strangers. Probably best to confide in someone you know rather than taking the conversation on the London Underground.
O Fenomeno pulled of skills that even the most technically proficient attackers wouldn’t dare dream about, all at terrifying speed.
This was the pre-YouTube era, so Ronaldo had to have the imagination to conjure the flip-flaps and drag-backs before you even get to executing the moves.
His early footballing CV is faultless.
Forty-four goals in 47 games for Cruzeiro and a cameo at the 1994 World Cup at the age of 17 piqued the interest of PSV, who signed him on the advice of Romario.
He continued scoring at a phenomenal rate, netting 54 goals in 57 appearances for PSV before swapping the Netherlands for Spain and Barcelona in a world record transfer.
Ronaldo, playing under Sir Bobby Robson, took Spain to the cleaners in arguably his greatest ever season.
The history books will read 47 goals in 49 appearances, but the intangible joy he brought to a generation of fans and future footballers could never be reduced to simple numbers.
A single season at Barcelona was followed by another world record transfer in 1997, this time to the razzmatazz of Serie A with Inter.
At the age of 20 Ronaldo was already struggling to find a trophy cabinet big enough to hold his honours, including the 1996 World Player of the Year award and the 1996/97 European Golden Boot.
A first season return of 34 goals in all competitions meant it was business as usual for Ronaldo in Italy.
But then came 21 November 1999, a day which would come to define the rest of Ronaldo’s career.
O Fenomeno showed typical speed off the mark to beat a Lecce defender to the ball, only to buckle and rupture tendons in his knee.
Recovery took five months. A return, against Lazio in the first-leg of the Coppa Italia final, should have been a joyous event as the world welcomed back the best footballer on the planet.
But six minutes into the game Ronaldo suffered a complete rupture of the knee-cap. He would only play another 13 games in two years for Inter.
That was far from the end of Ronaldo’s career.
Real Madrid, AC Milan and Corinthians fans all had the pleasure of watching Ronaldo pull on their shirt, while he played another 47 times for Brazil after the injury.
Now, seven years into retirement, the Champions League has brought three of Ronaldo’s former sides back together.
So what better time to remember all the glorious players Ronaldo called team-mates at PSV, Barcelona and Inter?
Francesco Toldo, Ronaldo’s team-mate at Inter Milan, sees off pressure from Vitor Baia, Gianluca Pagliuca, Sebastien Frey and Angelo Peruzzi.
Defending against Ronaldo in training must have been harder than anything Jaap Stam, Laurent Blanc or Fernando Couto faced on the pitch. Unfortunately there’s no room in the side for Taribo West.
Javier Zanetti’s inclusion at right wing-back is a no brainer. Luis Figo’s place at left-wing back was the only way he could get in the side. Don’t expect much tracking back.
Diego Simeone and Pep Guardiola’s inclusion in the middle of the park means no room for Ronaldo’s Barcelona team-mates Luis Enrique or Robert Prosinecki, Inter’s Clarence Seedorf or PSV’s Phillip Cocu.
Roberto Baggio and Hristo Stoichkov line up behind Ronaldo, having had the pleasure of playing in tandem with the Brazilian at Inter and Barcelona respectively.
Finally, tt would be doing the big man a disservice to not give him a spot in his own Dream Team. Well done, Ronaldo. You earned it.
READ MORE FROM THE WORLD OF DREAM TEAM:
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- Which footballers’ names need to be added to the Oxford English Dictionary?
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