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Ronaldo: His Phenomenal Career Told Through Football Shirts (1994-2007)

Ronaldo Luis Nazario de Lima, commonly known as Ronaldo, is widely regarded as one of the greatest footballers of all time. And rightly so!

So often, we hear references about how the players of today simply ‘aren’t built like’ the ones from yesteryear. In my mind, very few players are able to consciously have that title attached to their name. But make no mistake about him, he’s one of them.

The ‘Real’ Ronaldo

He has amassed a near-perfect warchest full of memories that football fans can never forget; both on a national and international level. His is story that has been told many times (like we did a little bit in this article here), but in line with our love of collectibles here at Hobby FC, we’ve decided to take a look back at his illustrious career through the shirts that became synonymous with his success.

It’s a journey that will take us from the streets of Brazil, to the true footballing superstardom. The blue strip of Cruzeiro is where this story begins…

Cruzeiro (1993-94)

Technically, I should begin with Sao Cristovao – the plucky outfit from the lower Brazilian divisions which initially plucked Ronaldo from the futsal world.

But without as much as a piece of thread to bid on, the safer bet is to go with his first professional contract; offered to him via Brazilian legend Jairzinho by his former club, Cruzeiro. Early Football Manager players will know this team well, especially around 2007 when a certain Kerlon was strutting his stuff for them.

Having apparently been shunned by a few other larger clubs in Brazil, his arrival at Cruzeiro is probably the one and only time that it wouldn’t attract expectation. Roughly 1 goal p/game return in a 38-game season later, that all changed.

Displaying some of his honed futsal skills, Ronaldo’s close ball-control and impressive physique were clear to see. Even if Cruzeiro’s oversized blue jersey with a white stripe did its best to hide that second fact. This year, his figure was a mirage for his opponents. His explosive pace, dynamite right boot and versatility in finishing makes for an awe-inspiring highlight reel in the blue of Cruzeiro.

True to form, it didn’t take long before the rest of the world took notice.

PSV Eindhoven (1994-96)

From the get-go, the comparisons to Brazil’s old stars were clear as day.

It started with Pele, a man famous for playing all of his football in Brazil and bringing our archaic game into technicolour during his prime. Another top striker followed his enormously large footsteps, and his name was Romario.

A man who is arguably the most underrated, yet personally confident player of his generation, it’s pitiful that he doesn’t get the amount of mention his ability deserved.

Having made his own name at Vasco da Gama back home, Romario spent 5 goal-laden years in Eindhoven before embarking on a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants career right throughout the world. Ronaldo wore his new shirt the year after his compatriot, and the memories were too clear to ignore.

That being said, they were two different breeds of striker. Romario was a flat-out finisher, and Ronaldo had everything else. The skills, the frills, never any spills, he used his time in Europe to get used to the hard tackling nature of the area, but that didn’t stop him.

54 goals in 58 games in the Dutch league and cup competitions in that bright red and white strip of PSV Eindhoven. It’s the first time collectibles of any discernible taste sprouted from his career, and marked his first of many forays into Europe. Remarkably, Romario’s career continued to form the archetype moving forward.

FC Barcelona (1996-97)

Gary Lineker, Walker’s Crisps aficionado and ex-Barcelona hitman described his previous place of employment as a “madhouse”. And that’s putting it delicately.

At just 20 years of age, Ronaldo had his pick of any club that wanted him, and Barcelona eventually won the race with a record fee to procure his talents for the 1996-97 season. Under the stewardship of the late, great Sir Bobby Robson.

Though both of their tenures at the club would be short-lived, the manager was keen to make it one to remember. Legend has it that he was supposed to sign Alan Shearer instead and landed on Ronaldo when that deal fell through. I think it’s fair to say that neither of them regret how things turn out.

Alan Shearer went on to become the Premier League’s most prolific marksman in its history, while Ronaldo spearheaded a new version of a Barca ‘Dream Team’. With Stoichkov and Figo either side of him, he was a force that nobody could stop.

To make things better, the shirt is equally as iconic. A Kappa-sponsored, simple Barca jersey. No front-of-shirt sponsor, nothing on the sleeves, just the manufacturer and the club working in perfect harmony. And a beautiful, block-style nameset to go with it all. Even the number ‘9’ looked aesthetic. Just wonderful all-round.

The away shirt featured a striking yellow and blue vertical stripe design with the club’s crest on the left side of the chest. Ronaldo wore this shirt during the famous 5-0 win over Real Madrid, in which he scored a hat-trick and cemented his status as a superstar in the football world.

Inter Milan (1998-99)

Italian Football in the ‘90s really was the place to be.

Gabriel Batistuta, Manuel Rui Costa, Paolo Maldini, Zinedine Zidane, Francesco Totti and now… they had the Ronaldo Nazario. What a time to be alive!

Luckily for all Inter fans around the world, it would be their famous black and blue strip that would adorn the Brazilian’s broad shoulders for his first foray into Italy. Again, breaking the world transfer record in the process – the only player to do so twice after Diego Maradona (who also moved from Barca to Serie A, only to Naples instead of Milan).

Alongside Christian Vieri and in front of Clarence Seedorf, it was assumed that Ronaldo would lay siege to all before him in the years to come after signing a 5-year deal, and winning a Ballon D’Or would suggest that this is exactly what happened.

Having said that, there will also be that niggling thought of ‘what could have been’ given his infamous knee injury against Lazio on 12 April, 2000.

But those images of him blurring past his opponents in that Pirelli-sponsored kit, with the Inter badge in the middle and the Umbro mention to the side will live long in the memory. We can even go as far to say that period between the move and the injury is indeed the best that the world ever got to see of Ronaldo’s true abilities.

Brazil at the 2002 World Cup:

A brief interlude here as we remember Ronaldo’s World Cup journey.

In 1994, he was invited by the Brazil camp to simply watch from afar as his country lifted their fourth World Cup title. With the most memorable moment from the time spent in the US & Mexico being Roberto Baggio’s penalty miss.

In 1998, the man was front and centre of everybody’s attention, and he didn’t disappoint. Dragging his teammates kicking and screaming to the summit of world football with hosts France standing in their way of back-to-back titles.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be, and reasons to explain the inexplicable would rage on for years after the event. Otherwise known as ‘The Ronaldo World Cup conspiracy‘.

Some say Ronaldo’s own issues in the final was due to a suspected poisoning on the eve of the Final, or even under the duress of his sponsors, Nike. But in reality, the poor man suffered a convulsive fit and tried to soldier on for the match despite the disapproval from his coaching staff.

He played, Brazil lost and Ronaldo was largely blamed. Then, injury plagued his future international involvement, with 2002 looking unlikely.

Yet despite a last-minute fracas between his selection or Romario’s, Ronaldo scored eight goals en route to Brazil’s fifth World Cup triumph – earning the tournament’s Golden Boot award in the process. All in that canary yellow strip with the brazilian flag on his chest.

The hairstyle added to the occasion, too.

Real Madrid (2003-2007)

The story of Los Galacticos is one that’s been written about countless times, but that still doesn’t stop it from becoming one of my favourite stories of all time.

It was a real-life version of cheating on Football Manager – which we’ve all done.

Potential Real Madrid president, Florentino Perez formed a bid that hinged around a prospectus to get the club back to the zenith of the football world. Which largely meant procuring the greatest talents that the game had to offer at the time.

As part of his campaign, he promised to buy the best talents of the world while promoting players from the academy. It began with the incredibly controversial acquisition of Barcelona’s Luis Figo, then the eye-watering fees paid to Juventus for Zinedine Zidane, and now a bid for the man who’d won the World Cup for Brazil.

Strapped for a bit of liquid cash, Inter were obviously and noticeably reticent to get rid of Ronaldo, but did so through gritted teeth. Over the coming years, the spending from Real Madrid wouldn’t stop either, with David Beckham joining the next season.

That lineup: Iker Casillas, Roberto Carlos, Fernando Hierro, Michel Salgado, Guti, Zinedine Zidane, David Beckham, Luis Figo and Ronaldo. That’s just unfair.

In this cold, callous world of stats and arbitrary assessments, the ‘Galactico’ policy was a failure in the lack of return on footballing investment over that period of time. But in this world where our heart rules our heads, it activates that kid in us that simply wants to see the best names at the same time. And they gave us that.

The nameset on the ‘Siemens’ kit really hits the spot, too! Oh, the memories of that Champions League hat-trick away at Old Trafford are flooding back!

AC Milan (2007-08)

This is a bit of a selfish inclusion from myself, to be honest.

Over the past year, I’ve worked tirelessly on my book: ‘The Conquerors’ – now available on Amazon Prime. Which is an homage to the incredible AC Milan side I grew up watching, managed by the effervescent ‘Don’ Carlo Ancelotti. Check it out here, if you fancy!

Through researching this, I stumbled across a rather annoying, yet poignant story from Ronaldo. Who, you guessed it, did indeed play for AC Milan.

Towards the end of his tenure with Real Madrid, he’d fallen out of favour with Fabio Capello, but the Italian wouldn’t let him leave without installing a back-up plan, which took everyone to the January Transfer Window of 2007. Meaning that, given Ronaldo did play for Madrid in that time, he would be cup tied for any shared competition.

As I explore, 2007 would be a pivotal year in Milan’s history as they laid to rest the horrendous nightmare of Istanbul in 2005. So, they won the UEFA Champions League that year, but because of a technicality, Ronaldo didn’t. In fact, he never did.

That’s right, arguably the greatest striker to have ever played the game, has never won club football’s ultimate prize. He didn’t even get the No.9 shirt while he played there as another striker already claimed it. However, that ‘Ronaldo-99’ golden decal on the back of the rossoneri colours does stand out quite well.


I’ve just written an article that any player would beg for.

A CV containing some of the greatest clubs on Earth and winning pretty much everything in sight, and yet there’s still that niggling thought.

‘What if he didn’t get injured?’, ‘What if he took things more seriously?’

It’s astonishing, really. But it speaks to how great Ronaldo really was. Because he was greatness personified. A man adorned with unerring talent and gifted every fan in the world the opportunity to see him do what he was born to do.

He was born into an era of incredible strikers and stood out, his highlights are timeless and his name will never, ever be forgotten. And, speaking with our Hobby FC hats for a second, he’s one of the most collectible and beloved sportsmen of all time.

What a phenomenal career it has been.