Fergie: “We wanted to sign the Brazilian striker from Cruzeiro in 1994, but we could not get a work permit and he went to PSV Eindhoven in the Netherlands.”
Then: Players generally get recognition after appearing in a major competition. In 1994, 17-year-old unknown Ronaldo was named in an otherwise experienced Brazil squad for the World Cup. While he didn’t feature during the campaign, his mere inclusion sent pulses racing around the world. For those who knew their football, Ronaldo’s inclusion should have been no real surprise. In his opening season in professional football, the immensely talented teenager had managed a remarkable 44 goals in 47 games for Brazilian top division side, Cruzeiro. Despite interest from Manchester United, Ronaldo took the advice of fellow Brazilian hotshot, Romario, who – drawing from his own experiences – told Brazil’s golden boy to start his career with PSV.
Now: Who knows what would would have happened had Ronaldo signed for Manchester United. Widely regarded as one of the finest footballers to ever grace the game, Ronaldo brought with him a new style of play. He was strong, fast and, more than any other factor, was willing to take a risk. He was, in essence, the first modern day footballer. If not for injury problems, he would probably have equalled – or perhaps even eclipsed – the achievements of his namesake, Cristiano Ronaldo. Since retiring, the Brazilian’s life has taken many strange and puzzling twists. Booze, debauchery and perplexing liaisons have seen Ronaldo’s stock diminish significantly. However, in more recent times, he has got his life back on track. He has a stake in an American soccer franchise and is the co-owner of the Brazilian A1 motor racing team.