Two classic Brazilian forwards have retired in recent months with Kaka and Ronaldinho hanging up their boots. But where do they rank amongst the greats?
One of the top three players in the world, Neymar is seen as the successor to Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi on the throne of world football. Having played a fundamental role with Brazil, Santos, Barcelona, and now Paris Saint Germain, the 25-year-old is a Champions League win or a World Cup triumph away from being the number one. He has yet to win his first Ballon d’Or, but it seems to be a matter of when, rather than if.
4) Ricardo Kaka
Kaka achieved tremendous success throughout his glorious football career. A career which almost never even kicked-off, following an injury at the swimming pool while still at Sao Paulo as a teenager. Doctors told him that he would walk again, but refused to confirm whether he’d be able to resume playing football.
The Paulista would not only do it, but also go on to achieve everything a professional footballer dreams of – part of Brazil’s World Cup winning squad in 2002, Champions League winner with AC Milan and the key player for the team. Kaka’s year in 2007 is still better than the season of any other Brazilian that followed, over the next ten years.
At his peak level, Ronaldinho would easily be second on the list as it was even better than Rivaldo’s. Ronaldinho was extraordinary for Brazil in World Cup 2002. In the final against Germany, the magician did not disappoint. R10 would go on and guide Brazil to the Confederations Cup in 2005, while scoring in the 4-1 triumph against Argentina in the final.
In 2006, the two-time Ballon d’Or winner was the technical leader, as he helped Barcelona win their first Champions League in over a decade. However, it was then where his downfall began, as he failed to deliver for his country in World Cup 2006.
Words fail to describe the importance of Rivaldo, both technically and tactically. The forward who Luiz Felipe Scolari described as the most important player in his 2002 World Cup-winning squad, was always present for Brazil and always delivered.
After winning the Confederations Cup where Ronaldo and Romario were the main stars, the Copa América in 1999 was definitely Rivaldo’s. His brace against Uruguay in the final was just spectacular, in one of the best ever performances for any player in the yellow shirt, in recent history. His influence in South Korea and Japan in 2002 was overwhelming, when he scored five goals and was consistent in every game. It is worth noting that Rivaldo won the Ballon d’Or while at Barcelona in 1999, in an era that featured the likes of Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo, Romario, Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Del Piero and other legends of the game, at their peak.
There is little doubt as to who was always going to be on top of that list, it can only be Ronaldo. Ronnie is a three-times Ballon d’Or winner, and would have certainly have won more, if it wasn’t for a two-year year injury that hit him right when he was supposed to be at his peak.
In Italy, R9 was treated like a god, which earned him the nickname of Il Fenomeno. After scoring 47 goals in 49 games in his one and only season at Barcelona, Ronaldo’s next destination was Internazionale, where he took pleasure in humiliating the likes of Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Nesta, Fabio Cannavaro and Lilian Thuram, week in, week out.
Ronaldo never let Brazil down, as he is a two-time Copa América winner, a Confederations Cup winner and a two-time World Cup winner. Who can ever forget Ronaldo’s 2002 campaign when he scored eight goals, including the famous brace against Germany’s Oliver Kahn, in the final?
The striker who was an injury-doubt, ended up silencing his doubters as Scolari’s gamble by selecting him over Romario who was deemed to be more fit, would pay dividends. The world player of the year would go on to join Real Madrid where he would help them win the Spanish league while ending up as the Pichichi winner, in a season where he became the first player to ever score a hat-trick at Old Trafford in the Champions League. The Brazilian left his mark at every single club where he played, from Cruzeiro to AC Milan and Corinthians