How far could Ronaldo have gone without his injuries?

The Brazilian legend is turning 40, and while he achieved incredible things during his career he could have gone even further if it were not for his chronic physical problems
Ronaldo Nazario de Lima amazed the world, and more than earned his nickname of ‘O Fenomeno’ as he assured his place in football’s hall of fame. He is one of the greatest No. 9s in Brazilian history, and holds the title of second-highest World Cup scorer of all time after travelling to no less than four competitions.

READ MORE: How Brazil have changed under Tite | A second chance for Thiago Silva | Brazil’s World Cup qualifying campaign

 

The World Cup; the Confederations Cup; the Copa America; La Liga: all feature amongst the now-retired striker’s trophy collection. If one takes his individual prizes into account, the list would grow even longer.

 

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Ronaldo was chosen as the best player in the world on three occasions, in 1996, 1997 and 2002. He also picked up seven top-scorer awards, in tournaments as varied as the Copa Libertadores, La Liga, the Copa America and the World Cup.

 

But all of those achievements seem almost insufficient bearing in mind the promise of the superstar when he was taking his first steps in the world of football. Strong and rapid, he drove defenders mad with his skills and at just 25 he scored eight goals in a single World Cup: two of them in a spectacular final to down Germany. It is even more impressive considering that O Fenomeno was returning from two years of inactivity following a serious knee injury.

 

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At Barcelona Ronaldo smashed 47 goals in 49 games, surpassing the records of legends like Romario and Johan Cruyff. Not satisfied with being Catalunya’s prime hitman, Ronaldo went on to do the same at Inter, inspiring the Italian giants to the UEFA Cup. 

 

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Ronaldo’s career path brought one great surprise. He joined the ranks of Real Madrid’s Galacticos and won over one of the most demanding supports in the world, even with the added handicap of having shined for their bitter rivals. At the Santiago Bernabeu Ronaldo overcame the initial doubts, gained the affection of the stands and is remembered fondly by the Blancos.

 

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Amongst so many goals and memorable moments, however, one question remains unanswered. Could the superstar have been even better without the chronic injuries that dogged him? The first appeared at the dawn of his career, back in 1995 when he was just 19. 

 

A scan showed inflammation in both knees and damaged cartilage in the right joint. His most serious injury came in the 1999-2000, when a snapped tendon forced him out for five long months.

 

After his recovery, the No. 9 suffered another devastating setback when in his first game back he suffered a complete rupture of the tendon in his knee. The image went around the world via television, and was embedded in supporters’ memories. That injury kept the Inter forward out for another 15 months.

 

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From that point onwards Ronaldo was forced to live in constant pain, often missing games to recover. In total he missed almost three years of play due to injury, and finally hung up his boots at 34.

 

But even with all those serious problems, O Fenomeno enthralled the world and carved out a deserved place in history as one of the best ever to take the pitch. If it were not for injuries, more goals and more titles would surely have come. 

 

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But the injuries also helped him become the person he is today: a man that overcame those difficulties, who after more than a year out of the game returned as a king to deliver the World Cup and be chosen once more as the world’s best player. It was a comeback worthy of Hollywood. 

 

(Foto: Getty Images)

The star also helped transform the role of the centre-forward in modern football. He brought together skill, strength and speed in a way few had previously, ending the idea that a No. 9 was tasked merely with hanging off the defence and putting the ball into the net. 

 

Other great Ronaldos would come, such as his 2002 partner in crime Ronaldinho and the Portuguese Cristiano Ronaldo. But both of those owe a great debt to the original R9, who left his example for the world and influenced the pair more than even they could imagine. 

AC Milan considered De Boer as new coach – Galliani

Inter’s Dutch boss was one of the candidates for the managerial position at their city rivals, with Vincenzo Montella getting the job in the end

AC Milan CEO Adriano Galliani admits his side considered appointing current Inter head coach Frank de Boer ahead of the 2016-17 campaign, before eventually opting for Vincenzo Montella instead.

De Boer was available after stepping down as Ajax boss and was heavily linked with a move to the Rossoneri, only for Milan to opt for ex-Fiorentina and Sampdoria head coach Montella on a two-year deal.

The Dutchman eventually ended up in Serie A after all, replacing Roberto Mancini at Inter last month, but could very well have been in charge of their city rivals had things turned out differently.

“Montella, De Boer and [Sampdoria boss Marco] Giampaolo were all candidates to become our coach,” Galliani told Milan Channel.

“There were six options in total, including [Cristian] Brocchi and two giants with great experience.
READ MORE | Niang: Montella will lead Milan to Europe

“We then decided to sign Montella and we are pleased with our choice. 

“Montella’s teams play good football and this is something Silvio Berlusconi, myself and fans appreciate. We have to continue playing like this.

“We have faced strong teams but there’s still a lot to do. The match against Udinese shows how unpredictable Serie A can be.”

Milan – who have nine points from their first five Serie A matches – travel to Tuscany to play Fiorentina on Sunday.

De Boer calls on Brozovic to show Inter commitment

Inter coach is adamant he has not treated the Croatia International unfairly by dropping him for key Juve game and wants him to prove his value to the Serie A club

Frank de Boer has told Marcelo Brozovic to step up and prove him wrong after dropping the midfielder for Inter’s 2-1 win over Juventus.

The 23-year-old responded angrily after he was withdrawn at half-time in Inter’s shock 2-0 Europa League defeat at the hands of Hapoel Be’er Sheva last week and was then left out for the morale-boosting victory over the Serie A champions on Sunday.

Brozovic took to Instagram to express his dismay with De Boer’s decision, but the Dutch coach has told the midfielder to prove him wrong on the pitch instead.

“Brozovic needs to show he’s a part of this team and work hard,” De Boer said at a news conference.
READ MORE | Icardi never thought to leave Inter

“I treat all my players equally and I am always ready for a chat. I have a good relationship with my players.”

Inter will be looking to make it three Serie A wins in succession when they visit Empoli on Wednesday and De Boer has revealed new signing Gabriel Barbosa could make his debut.

“Gabriel trained Monday for the first time with the squad, he looks OK,” the Nerazzurri boss added. “We will see today, he might get a call-up.

“The match against Empoli will be an important encounter. We have to keep the same attitude we had against Juventus. We always have to work together, as a team. That’s what we saw against Juventus and I want the same against Empoli

“We want to dominate in every game. That’s my philosophy. We did well on Sunday but we can improve even more. We were compact against Juventus. You have to have this mentality to win games.”

Allegri hopes Inter defeat 'burns' Juve players

The Bianconeri coach was disappointed as their winning run evaporated in Milan, and he is looking for an instant response as he defended Higuain’s benching

Massimiliano Allegri called his Juventus side “sluggish and complacent” after they let a one-goal lead slip in a 2-1 defeat to Inter at San Siro.

The Bianconeri looked set to make it four wins from four Serie A matches when Stephan Lichtsteiner opened the scoring after 66 minutes, but the lead was quickly overturned by a determined Inter side.

Goals from Mauro Icardi and Ivan Perisic condemned Juventus to their first Serie A defeat to Inter since November 2012, and Allegri said he hoped his players would learn from the shock result.

“After taking the lead, we didn’t even hold it for two minutes,” Allegri told Sky Sport Italy.

“We got sluggish and complacent, dropping the intensity levels. This defeat has to burn within us and teach us a real lesson, getting our feet back on the ground.

“It was a dirty game, rough and a real battle. We needed more determination and hunger to bring home the result, especially once we had gone in front.”
READ MORE | Icardi & Perisic down Juve

Allegri opted to leave Juventus’ record signing Gonzalo Higuain out of his starting line-up, favouring Mario Mandzukic, and also played Miralem Pjanic as a deep-lying playmaker, in place of Mario Lemina.

Neither change seemed to have a positive impact but Allegri defended the decisions, saying: “I think Pjanic had an intelligent game in front of the defence.

“Lemina did well for a few games, but don’t forget he only played nine times last season, so we can’t put too much pressure on him.

“The real problem today is that Juventus were bad on a technical level – we gave the ball away cheaply, misplaced passes and above all conceded our third goal of the season on a corner.

“It’s not easy for strikers when the whole team is playing badly. We need to relax, start preparing for the Cagliari game and put together a run of good results.

He added: “It’s not a tragedy. I was worried we’d have such a strong series of early fixtures, but the lads largely did well.

“I think every now and then a defeat like this can do us good, if we are smart and humble enough to learn from it.”

Inter cannot lose to Empoli after Juve victory – De Boer

The Dutch boss is desperate for his team to maintain the momentum gained after a fine derby victory, and believes the next clash in Serie A will be crucial

Inter coach Frank de Boer called for his side to build on their 2-1 win over champions Juventus at San Siro by beating Empoli on Wednesday.

Goals from Mauro Icardi and Ivan Perisic cancelled out Stephan Lichtsteiner’s opener for Juventus and Inter held on to clinch a win that they fully deserved after a dominant display.

The result gave De Boer his first home win in Serie A since arriving at the club and he praised his team for bouncing back from a 2-0 defeat to Hapoel Be’er Sheva in the Europa League in midweek.

Inter face Empoli away and Bologna at home in their next games, and De Boer expects to see similar performances from his side.

“We trained a lot. I have faith in this team. We have just started and now the players have understood what I want,” he told Premier Sport.

“At one nil we had not lost the game. We fought to the end and we deserved the victory.

“I spoke with them after Thursday [against Hapoel], and I saw how hard they worked. They have to believe in the team’s game. We have a lot of quality.
READ MORE | Icardi & Perisic down Juve

“We have to be realistic. You win titles so early; you cannot win against Juve and then lose against Empoli.

“We have to keep doing what we did today. We have to be pressed together and be compact.”

De Boer reserved special praise for his captain, Icardi, who scored his fourth goal in as many games before assisting Perisic for the winner with a sublime pass.

“Icardi is a great player and he fought until the last minute,” said De Boer. “It’s fantastic.

“Everyone has played to the end and I am very happy. We still have details to work on, but we are on track.”

Icardi echoed his coach’s sentiments, and also defended the Dutchman after he came in for criticism following a disappointing start to the season.

“If we played every game like this, we’d have great success,” Icardi told Mediaset Premium.

“Juventus are a great team, so these matches are the ultimate for us.

“It’s hard for coaches in football. They teach us things, but we are the ones who step onto the pitch and have to put it into action. It’s always the coach who is penalised, but from the start De Boer gave us great hunger, told us to press high and we managed it.”

He added: “Juventus are one of my favourite teams to score goals against. However, we can’t just play one good game. We must continue like this.”

Inter 2-1 Juventus: Icardi stars as Nerazzurri take Derby victory

The Argentine scored the home team’s equaliser and set up his team-mate with a fine cross to turn the tables at San Siro, as the Serie A champions fell to defeat

Ivan Perisic came off the bench to score the decisive goal for Inter in a 2-1 victory over Juventus that gave head coach Frank de Boer his first home win as Inter coach.

The Croatian midfielder powered a header into the net in the 78th minute to send the San Siro crowd into raptures and the result was fully deserved.

In fact, the scoreline flattered Juventus, who came up against an Inter side playing their best football since De Boer was installed as coach and they would have been very fortunate had Stephan Lichtsteiner’s 66th minute goal proved to be the winner.

Mauro Icardi scored his fourth goal in as many Serie A games to equalise shortly after and it was Icardi who provided the assist for Perisic to score the winner.

Inter, who struggled to play De Boer’s preferred brand of expansive football in their opening three games, were compact, cohesive and robust against a Juventus side not used to being pressed and harried as they were at San Siro.

The result leaves Juventus in second place in Serie A behind Napoli while Inter – who saw Ever Banega sent off late on – climb into the top half of the table.

Massimiliano Allegri rested Gonzalo Higuain, despite the Argentine netting a brace in his first Serie A start for the club against Sassuolo, and his side seemed to lack purpose without him leading the line.

Sami Khedira was put clean through on goal in the opening minute but Inter were saved by the offside flag, and the scare prompted Frank de Boer’s men to slow things down and compose themselves.

Inter have found goals hard to come by this season and, despite enjoying long spells of possession in the first half against Juventus, they struggled to trouble Gianluigi Buffon’s goal.

The best chance of the first half fell to Khedira, who was completely unmarked when Alex Sandro’s cross picked him out but his header went weakly into the hands of Samir Handanovic, who released Icardi at the other end.

Icardi jinked his way into the Juventus box and unleashed a swerving shot that clipped the post on its way wide, leaving the scoreline goalless at half-time.

Inter ramped up the pressure after the break and forced Juventus into a number of errors that produced chances for Gary Medel, Eder, Danilo D’Ambrosio and Icardi, but they were all wasted.

Juventus, having survived a long spell of Inter pressure, struck what looked like a killer blow after 66 minutes when Alex Sandro broke down the left and crossed for Lichtsteiner to score from close range.

But less than two minutes later Inter were level thanks to their inspirational captain Icardi, who leaped above a crowded penalty area to connect with Banega’s corner and head the ball past Buffon.

Inter continued to push forward and they were rewarded when Kwadwo Asamoah gave the ball away cheaply to Candreva, before Icardi delivered a sublime pass with the outside of his boot that found the head of Perisic and he found the corner of the net.

Higuain was sent on by Allegri in the closing stages and he flashed a glancing header wide with Handanovic rooted to the spot, but Inter were not to be denied a hard-fought victory.

The only downside for De Boer was Banega’s red card in the final minute for a second bookable offence, but his dismissal and ensuing suspension failed to take the edge off a fine victory for Inter and their ecstatic supporters.

Allegri: Clash with Inter will be turning point in title race

Sunday’s Derby d’Italia represents the first big test for Juventus in the quest for another Scudetto, according to the coach

Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri believes this weekend’s Derby d’Italia against Inter will be a “turning point” in the Serie A title race. 

Sunday’s clash represents the first meeting of 2016-17 between the two heavyweights of Italian football, who have got their respective campaigns off to very differing starts.

While Juve are unbeaten in their opening four fixtures across all competitions – winning their first three league games before being held to a 0-0 draw by Sevilla in the Champions League – Frank de Boer’s Inter have won only once under the Dutchman so far, and suffered a humiliating Europa League defeat to Hapoel Be’er Sheva last time out.

However, Allegri has insisted the champions – who are in search of their sixth successive Scudetto – will be taking nothing for granted.
READ MORE | Allegri unconcerned by Dybala drought

“It will be a beautiful game as we are playing the Derby d’Italia and it will be the first turning point in the title race,” Allegri said.

“It’s the first turning point for winning the championship. Someone could think we are only at the fourth game-week and therefore it won’t be decisive yet for the title but I don’t agree.

“Inter against Juventus is the first big moment in the title race.”

De Boer confident Inter will be back where they belong

After being humiliated in midweek by Hapoel Be’er Sheva in the Europa League on Thursday, the coach is bullish over his side’s prospects

Frank de Boer is adamant Inter will return to the top irrespective of their underwhelming start to the 2016-17 campaign.

Inter have collected just four points from their opening three Serie A fixtures, while they were beaten 2-0 by Hapoel Be’er Sheva in the Europa League on Thursday.

Pressure on De Boer is already building following his stuttering start to life at San Siro, but the Dutchman remains optimistic ahead of Sunday’s match against champions Juventus.
READ MORE | ‘Juve hungry for Derby d’Italia victory’

“Pressure is to be expected at Inter. We’re working hard to make sure we improve. I’m convinced that we will put Inter back where it belongs,” De Boer stated at a news conference.

“We’re up against a very strong side, everyone knows that. I have great respect for what Juventus have achieved. We analyse all our opponents with the same level of care, no matter who they are. You will see how we play on Sunday. The game against Juventus is a special one for us all. The stadium will be full and we will feel the support of our fans.

“The whole squad and everyone around the club wants us to do well in a really important match. We lost our heads a bit after we conceded [on Thursday]. We need to maintain the same intensity whenever we play. The whole team is ready to play 90 minutes. There are no more excuses for not being fit. We’ve worked hard on that.”

Allegri unconcerned by Dybala drought

The striker is yet to find the back of the net so far this season but his coach says all forwards go through bad patches and is looking forward to taking on Inter on Sunday

Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri has claimed he is not worried about Paulo Dybala’s lack of goals so far this season.

Dybala enjoyed a stellar first season at Juventus as he netted 23 goals from 46 appearances in all competitions, but he has yet to find the net this term, with fellow Argentine Gonzalo Higuain, a club-record signing from Napoli, the reigning champions’ main man in attack now.

Nevertheless, Allegri sees no reason for concern just yet as Juve prepare for Sunday’s trip to Inter.

“Dybala’s role has not changed this season,” Allegri said at a news conference. “He has not scored yet, but that can happen to all forwards.”

Juventus already hold a five-point lead over Inter after just three games and Allegri is keen to widen the gap on Sunday as they chase yet another title.

“Our primary objective this term is to win a sixth straight Scudetto,” he said.

“The game against Inter represents a first key duel of the season in our quest to win the Scudetto.

READ MORE | RUMOURS: Juve plot Alexis swap

“We put in a good performance against Sevilla despite the result. We need to keep our feet on the ground.

 “We can play in different formations, but our attitude is more important.”

Allegri revealed Stephan Lichtsteiner and Sami Khedira will start for Juventus in the Derby d’Italia.

“I can confirm that Lichtsteiner will play,” he said. “Khedira will also play, joining Lichtsteiner down the right side of the pitch.

“I still need to make a decision on the others. By rotating the squad, we’re able to play games every three days at the same high level of intensity. I’ll go with three at the back.”

Bonucci warns Inter: Juventus hungrier than ever for Derby d'Italia victory

The Bianconeri stalwart is eagerly anticipating a win in Sunday’s clash with their arch rivals as a means to bounce back from their disappointing Champions League outing

Leonardo Bonucci has warned Inter that Juventus are hungrier than ever for Derby d’Italia victory this weekend following their disappointing 0-0 Champions League draw with Sevilla.

The Serie A champions are regarded as one of the outsiders to win European club football’s elite competition on Wednesday, but they failed to get off to a winning start.

And Juve will be looking to return to winning ways against Inter this Sunday having started their bid for a sixth consecutive Scudetto with three straight victories.
READ MORE | Matuidi was desperate for Juventus move, claims Sissoko

“Sunday’s match against Inter will be a tough test for us against a team in transition; no doubt they will be looking to prove to the home fans that they can compete at our level,” Bonucci told the club’s official website.

“Regardless, the Derby d’Italia is the Derby d’Italia and having missed out on the win on Wednesday, we’ll be hungrier than ever to succeed this weekend.

“My dream has always been to win trophies with Juventus and if we keep our focus on all fronts this season, we can truly enter into legend.

“We’ve made some excellent signings of genuine match-winning quality. Guys like [Juan] Cuadrado, [Marko] Pjaca and [Miralem] Pjanic love to receive the ball between the lines and cause trouble.

“Their movement is such that it makes my job of finding them very easy.”