The future beckons Ronaldo

My happiness and emotion are so great that it's difficult to understand: Ronaldo.

updated: February 25, 2007 09:28 IST
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The famous gap-toothed smile slowly faded, Ronaldo's joy tempered by a sense of chances lost – and regained. "I'm slowly realising what happened," he said. "My happiness and my emotion are so great that it's difficult to understand". Ronaldo has written his name in World Cup history, scoring twice to lead Brazil 2-0 over Germany and win a record fifth World Cup title. His eight goals in the tournament gave him the Golden Boot as top scorer and were the most in 32 years. "Not even in my wildest dreams could I imagine this," he said. "We lived a beautiful dream". Yet to the 25-year-old striker, it meant even more. After a two-year absence for knee surgery, he was back at the top, disproving the skeptics who had said he was through. "My great victory was to return to the pitch, to play soccer, to score goals," he said. "I believe that even if had we had lost, I had conquered my personal victory, which was to play again". Ronaldo doesn't like to talk about what he calls his "two years of suffering", as he struggled to return to action. But he took time out to thank his physical therapist Nilton Petroni, who helped him through the dark days. "Petroni never abandoned me in any moment of my recuperation," he said. "I'm sure he is celebrating in Brazil and knows I'm thinking of him". Ronaldo's despair can be measured only by the sudden success he achieved as a teenage sensation, plucked from his home on Rio's poor north side by the Cruzeiro club. A year later, just 17, he was on the national team with Brazil's 1994 World Cup champions. His scoring prowess earned him comparisons with Pele, and soon he was off to the elite clubs of Europe: PSV, Barcelona, Internazionale. But his young knees felt the pressure of a man's game, and he was barely 20 when he had his first operation. The knees were still ailing when he went to the 1998 World Cup, where he scored four goals and took Brazil to the final against host France. But he fell victim to a mysterious ailment hours before the final, sleepwalking through the match as Brazil fell 0-3. The loss stunned Brazilians, and many accused Ronaldo of lacking heart. It was unfair, but he and other veterans were labelled. Until now. "We gave the maximum in 1998 too," he said. "I talked with Roberto Carlos, Rivaldo, Cafu, Denilson and Dida, who were part of that group, about what we failed to experience - the celebration after the game, the triumph. All of this could have happened in 1998. It didn't, but destiny was written. It was saved for 2002". Now, he's back at the pinnacle, and the future again seems limitless. "Other goals will appear. I'm very ambitious," remarked Ronaldo. (AP)