International Soccer
Sad ending for a true legend

By Tim Keeble, Soccer Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Like many Brazilian soccer legends, one name was all that was needed: Ronaldo.

It was a name that struck fear in the hearts of opposing defenders and goalkeepers for over a decade, and one that sits atop the all-time scoring list in World Cup history.

Yet sadly, if you were to ask the average soccer fan what image comes to mind first when Ronaldo's name is uttered, too many would describe a player who looks more like an overweight frat boy than a goalscoring machine.

Legends do not always go out gracefully in sports, with boxing icon Muhammad Ali being a prime example.

The great Ali suffered a brutal defeat at the hands of Larry Holmes on his way out of the sport, while also losing to a rather ordinary fighter in Trevor Berbick.

Likewise, the end of Ronaldo's career was filled with debilitating knee injuries that sapped the explosion from his game, as well as much-publicized battles with his waistline.

Ronaldo's career was filled with debilitating knee injuries that sapped the explosion from his game.
Ronaldo, who retired Monday, revealed that he suffered from a thyroid problem which made it difficult to control his weight, but it also made you wonder how the man making this announcement was the same one who scored two goals in the 2002 World Cup final against Germany to cap a brilliant performance in the tournament, earning Brazil its fifth World Cup title.

In 1994, Ronaldo was a 17-year-old kid along for the ride watching brilliant striker Romario lead Brazil to its fourth World Cup crown, but his time would come four years later in France.

After the 1994 tournament, Ronaldo blossomed into a world-class talent, scoring 47 goals in 49 games for Barcelona in the 1996-97 season and he entered the 1998 World Cup as one of the most recognizable players on the planet.

He went on to score four goals in the competition, but suffered a mysterious seizure prior to the final against France.

His performance that day was poor, and he was badly outplayed by French wizard Zinedine Zidane, who scored two goals as the hosts cruised to a 3-0 win.

Ronaldo's redemption would come four years later as he scored eight goals to lead the tournament and help Brazil win the title.

In Germany during the 2006 World Cup, Ronaldo cemented his place among the all-time greats with his 15th career goal in the competition coming in the round of 16 against Ghana, placing him one ahead of German legend Gerd Muller.

However, Brazil was upset in the quarterfinals by France, and Ronaldo's career, which had already been in decline, began a steep decent into mediocrity.

He suffered a serious knee injury in February 2008 while playing for AC Milan that ended his career in Europe, and he returned to Brazil to play for Corinthians, which didn't work out well for either club or player.

It would be fair to criticize the fact that he didn't win as many trophies as he should have, since calling him a two-time World Cup champion is a bit generous considering the fact that he played no part in Brazil's 1994 triumph despite being on the roster.

His performance in 2002 was excellent, but he was not the only star on the team, which also included Rivaldo and Ronaldinho.

Ronaldo scored 67 goals in 104 games with Brazil and won the FIFA World Player of the Year award three times, yet he has never lifted the Champions League trophy.

The end of his career may have been a whirlwind of injuries and fat jokes, but the role of a striker is simply to put the ball in the back of the net.

And during his time, "El Fenomeno" (The Phenomenon) was better at that than anyone walking the planet.

Comments? Criticism? Applause?
Contact Tim Keeble at tkeeble@sportsnetwork.com.

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