Ronaldo and football future: Is the warrior dead?

27th February 2008, Comments 0 comments

In April 2000, a confident Ronaldo defiantly warned those who were predicting that his serious right knee injury would be the end of his football career.

Rio de Janeiro -- In April 2000, a confident Ronaldo defiantly warned those who were predicting that his serious right knee injury would be the end of his football career.

"The warrior is injured, but he is not dead," the striker said.

Indeed, he rebounded, and just two years after that first injury, Ronaldo - then in top-form - commanded Brazil to its fifth World Cup title, in South Korea/Japan 2002.

But question now is whether his most recent injury could bring to an end life as a footballer, if his gloomy comments after being released from a French hospital are any indication.

After suffering a similar injury - the complete tear of the rotula tendon - in his left knee two weeks ago, the man Brazilians call "The Phenomenon" is clearly pessimistic.

"Of course, no club wants a 31-year-old, operated twice, who suffered two terrible injuries to his knees. No club can think of signing such a player," Ronaldo said in an interview broadcast by Italy's Repubblica TV Tuesday.

The three-time FIFA World Player of the Year seems tired of fighting the serious injuries that have plagued his career since 1996 - when he first underwent surgery in his right knee to remove pieces of cartilage, which were putting pressure on his tendon.

Ronaldo's body has shown growing signs of exhaustion in recent years. In the 2006 World Cup in Germany, although he scored three goals and surpassed Gerd Mueller as the top scorer in the history of the tournament, his performance was lack luster.

Since then, he has not been called to the new Brazil team coached by Carlos Dunga, and he did not feature frequently at his current club, Milan, before suffering a new injury that is set to keep him off the pitch at least until November.

His contract with Milan expires in June, and it is not known whether the Italian club intends to extend it. Flamengo, the Rio de Janeiro club that Ronaldo supports, has stressed it still wants to sign the striker but Ronaldo is having doubts.

"It was a very difficult operation and something could happen during the rehabilitation, which could mean having to quit playing," he said in the interview.

The striker used the same downcast tone in remarks aired Sunday by Brazil's TV Globo, where he made it plain that giving up football was not even the worst of his fears.

In fact, Ronaldo is facing a long, difficult recovery, and if anything goes wrong, he may not even be able to lead a normal life.

"If I do not follow the recovery (treatment prescriptions) well, it is very likely that there will be after-effects," Ronaldo said.

"Even if I think that I will not play again in the future, I have to give my best in the recovery period to be able to walk with my son, ride a bicycle with him, run with him, without feeling pain, without any after-effects," the once-powerful forward said.

In the face of the uncertainty surrounding his future, family life has become a priority for "The Phenomenon," who appears to have set aside his playboy reputation to remain alongside his current girlfriend, Maria Beatriz Antony.

The Brazilian engineer, 23, who was until 2006 the girlfriend of current Formula 1 driver Nelsinho Piquet, has been living with Ronaldo in Milan since last year, and that relationship looks set to become official.

"I have plans to get married again," Ronaldo told TV Globo.

In the interview, he also expressed his wish to be a "better father" for Ronald, the son he had with his first wife, Brazilian football player Milene Domingues.

DPA with Expatica

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