One of soccer’s all-time greats, Ronaldo, may have recently taken the pitch for the last time.
The Brazilian striker received some grim news yesterday regarding an injury he suffered during an Italian Serie A match on Wednesday. According to AC Milan team doctors, Ronaldo’s left kneecap ligament has ruptured for the third time and it is questionable whether he has the determination left to properly rehabilitate the injury so as to return to the field.
As his AC Milan contract was due to expire in three months anyways, it is highly unlikely Ronaldo will have a future with that club.
But here in the U.S., Ronaldo’s loss has been viewed by some experts as MLS’s gain. Many have argued that while he may lack the drive to return to top form for a European club, he may have enough will in him to slowly rehabilitate his knee and then play professionally in the U.S.
Though I consider such reports to be nothing more than veiled swipes at the American league (as in “he lacks the ability to play in a real league, but he could score 20 goals in the U.S. while jumping on one leg”), I do hope that there are some truth to them. Even if Ronaldo was 66% of the player he was in his prime, he could contribute heavily to a club (by providing goals, instruction to teammates, etc.) and to the league (jersey sales, attendance, international interest, etc.)
If MLS can get Ronaldo and if he is up to the challenge, it would undoubtedly be a match made in soccer heaven.
But Ronaldo can leave the game with his head held high if he likes. In fact, few players have had such satsifying careers.
As a club player, few who have played The Beautiful Game have had as much individual success as Ronaldo. He has beaten the world’s greatest players while playing for some of the world’s greatest clubs, including FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, Inter Milan, and most recently AC Milan. In 312 professional appearances, Ronaldo scored a ridiculous 229 goals against the best competition in the world.
Internationally, in ninety-seven career appearances for Brazil, he scored sixty-two goals. (For comparison, remember that the U.S.’s all-time leading scorer, Landon Donovan, has only had thirty-five goals over approximately the same number of appearances). More importantly, he was a cog in the Brazillian soccer machine that won World Cups in 1994 and 2002. In his nineteen World Cup appearances, Ronaldo scored a record fifteen goals. Furthermore, along with friend and Real Madrid teammate Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo is the only man to win the FIFA World Soccer Player of the Year Award three times.
Known as “The Phenomenom” in his native Brazil, Ronaldo, along with Real Madrid teammate David Beckham, was also one of the first soccer stars to earn worldwide fame. Ronaldo wasn’t just famous for scoring LOTS of goals though, it was the way he scored them. The Brazillian may have relied on his wits (i.e. flops) and ever-increasing physical size towards the end of his career to muscle goals in, but in his prime he played with a creative flair that few have seen and even fewer have achieved.
Ronaldo, if you choose to retire, thank you for the memories. But if you do desire to prove yourself once again, MLS will no doubt be ready for you.