Three-time World Footballer of the Year Ronaldo, whose goalscoring genius led Brazil to the 2002 World Cup, was set to announce his retirement yesterday, Brazilian media said.
“I can’t take any more,” the 34-year-old Brazil legend told the Estado de Sao Paulo newspaper ahead of a formal announcement expected at a press conference later yesterday.
“I wanted to continue, but I can’t do it any more. I think of an action, but I can’t do it the way I want to. It’s time,” he said.
“It’s the body that’s hurting me,” he told Globo television. “The head wants to go on, but the body can’t take any more.”
Ronaldo, whose full name is Ronaldo Luis Nazario de Lima, had already spoken in terms of retiring at the end of the year.
However, a succession of injuries and the elimination of his club, Corinthians, from the Copa Libertadores, South America’s most prestigious club tournament, appear to have pushed the date forward.
The Copa trophy, the equivalent of Europe’s Champions League trophy, was the only one Ronaldo had not won.
Widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, El Fenomeno had held out hopes of one last World Cup in South Africa last year.
In the end though, he had to accept that his injuries and lack of match fitness had ruled him out.
Ronaldo won the World Cup with Brazil for the first time in 1994, though on that occasion the 17-year-old was part of the squad, but did not play.
In 1998, he was among the losing finalists, beaten 3-0 at the Stade de France by a rampant French side that included the inspirational Zinedine Zidane.
Brazil’s star striker suffered a convulsive fit on the eve of the match and was removed from the starting lineup. In a dramatic dressing-room reshuffle, he was reinstated just before kick-off, but was a shadow of the intimidating forward who scored four goals in the run-up to the final.
However, the 2002 tournament was where he made history.
Shrugging off injury in the tournament, which was hosted by Japan and South Korea, he played a key role in helping Brazil to the trophy, scoring both goals in his country’s 2-0 win over Germany in the final in Yokohoma.
At the 2006 World Cup in Germany he took his World Cup tally to 15 goals, surpassing the previous record held by Gerd Muller by one goal.
In the course of his career, he picked up a string of honours, including the FIFA World Player of the Year three times: in 1996, 1997 and 2002.
However, he also had to fight back from a three serious injuries.
His career took him to some of Europe’s top clubs, including Barcelona and Real Madrid in Spain, and Inter and AC Milan in Italy.
However, he was sidelined while playing for Inter by a knee injury in 1999 only to damage the same knee in his comeback for the club in February 2000, effectively keeping him out of action until March 2002.
Ronaldo was a favorite with fans at the Santiago Bernabeu during a prolific spell with Real Madrid, helping them to the Spanish title in 2003, his debut season.
That year he also scored a hat-trick in the Champions League quarter-final, second-leg win over Manchester United. However, injuries and his failure to control his weight led to his departure in 2007 for AC Milan.
In February 2008, he ruptured a tendon in his right knee playing for the club against Livorno, an injury that ended his career with the Italian club.