Cristiano Ronaldo is a great player, maybe one of the best ever, but for fans of a certain age there is but one true Ronaldo. O Fenômeno or The Phenomenon as he was known, was just that. Phenomenal.
Ronaldo had everything; power, balance, skill, and an unnerving ability to finish that was unrivalled anywhere in world football. he wasn’t a show pony, his tricks were rarely done for the sake of it. Every drag-back put a defender on his backside, every step over created that little bit of space for a shot. There was no Messi/Cristiano style debate at the time. Ronaldo was the best, and that was it.
He might be the greatest Number 9 of all-time and the quotes below from some of the biggest names in football go some way to showing why.
What they said…
“Ronaldo was my hero. He was the best striker I’ve ever seen. He was so fast he could score from nothing, and could shoot the ball better than anyone” – Lionel Messi
“For me, Ronaldo is the greatest. He was as [good as] Pele. There was nobody like him. No one has influenced both football and the players who emerged as Ronaldo. I put up photos of Ronaldo in my room. Ronaldo was the man. Not only because of his step-overs and goals in the World Cup. Ronaldo was brilliant on every level. He was what I wanted to be, a guy who made a difference. [ . . . ] Ronaldo was my hero and I studied him online and tried to take in his movements, and I thought I was getting to be an awesome player. I danced down the pitch with the ball.” – Zlatan Ibrahimovic
“He was always an example for young people to look up to, for the way he overcame adversity. I was fortunate enough to play alongside him, my idol, for many years and we had so many great times together. He was always an idol of mine and will always be a friend” – Ronaldinho
“Ronaldo Nazário was, without doubt, the best striker I’ve ever seen. What I saw him do was spectacular, and that was having come to the club after a World Cup and having been sidelined for two years before that with a knee injury.” – Michel Salgado
“The best player I have ever played with? That’s Ronaldo, il Fenomeno. I have seen il Fenomeno do things that nobody else has ever done.” – Kaka
“I’ve never seen a player able to show such precise control at such a high speed. Watching him was like watching a character in a video game.” – Marcel Desailly
“Without hesitation, Ronaldo is the best player I ever played with. He had such an ease with the ball. He is number one. Every day I trained with him, I saw something different, something new, something beautiful. That’s what makes the difference between a very good player, and the exception, who, for me, is Ronaldo.” – Zinedine Zidane
“The worst experience I ever had was playing against Ronaldo when we faced Internazionale in the 1998 UEFA Cup Final in Paris. He’s an incredible player. I have watched that game on video so many times since then, trying to work out what I did wrong. We lost 3-0 but I don’t think now it was my fault. Ronaldo was simply unstoppable. He is so quick he makes everyone else look as if they are standing still.” – Alessandro Nesta
“After Maradona the best player was Ronaldo, it is my opinion that he is the best of the last 20 years.” – Jose Mourinho
“He’s not a man, he’s a herd. He didn’t come to France [1998 World Cup] to compete with the players of his generation but to seek a place amongst the best of the two millennia – this one and the coming.” – Jorge Valdano