Ronaldo, born in 1976, Brazilian soccer player, a prolific goal-scorer. Ronaldo scored both goals in the 2002 World Cup final to lead Brazil to a record fifth title.
He was born Luíz Nazário de Lima Ronaldo in the Bento Ribeiro area of Rio de Janeiro. In the Brazilian tradition, however, he is known simply by a single name: Ronaldo. He learned the game of soccer (known as fútbol in Brazil) in the streets of his neighborhood as a boy. In 1990, while still just 13 years old, he scored a hat trick (three goals) in a game for Sao Cristavao, a local professional team. Three years later he was sold to a larger team, Cruzeiro of Belo Horizonte. A center forward with great speed, skill, strength, and a powerful shot, Ronaldo became a superstar, scoring 58 goals in 60 games for Cruzeiro.
At 17 years old Ronaldo won a place on Brazil’s 1994 World Cup squad, but he watched from the bench as the Brazilians won the championship. After the World Cup his contract was sold by Cruzeiro to PSV Eindhoven, a team in The Netherlands, where he became the top scorer during the 1994-95 season. A knee injury kept Ronaldo out of soccer for most of the next season, but early in 1996 Barcelona purchased his contract for the second highest fee in the world up to that time. In Spain he continued to excel, becoming the top goal-scorer in Europe in 1996-97 with 34 goals and helping Barcelona win the European Cup Winners’ Cup. A two-time winner of the FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) World Player of the Year award (1996 and 1997), Ronaldo was transferred to Internazionale in Milan, Italy, in 1997. He ended his first season as the league's top scorer, tallying 25 goals in 32 matches and helping his team to the 1998 UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) Cup victory. However, his second and subsequent seasons in Milan were limited by a series of injuries.
While playing for the Brazilian national team, Ronaldo scored five goals as Brazil won the Copa America in 1997. Despite playing well in the 1998 World Cup and leading his team to the final, he failed to score in a 3-0 loss to France in the title match amid uncertainty about his physical and mental state for the game. After coping with knee injuries for several years, he came back to the Brazilian national squad in time for the 2002 World Cup tournament, which Brazil won. He had eight goals in the tournament to win the Golden Boot award as the competition’s highest scorer. Through 2002 Ronaldo had scored 47 goals for the Brazilian national team.
In late 2002 Ronaldo returned to Spain in a transfer to Real Madrid, one of the world’s top professional clubs. Also in 2002 he again won the World Player of the Year award, becoming the first player to capture the award three times.
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