A little while ago now we brought you the sad news that perhaps the greatest striker I have ever seen was being forced to retire after a recurrence of a knee injury that had plagued him for several years. The Brazilian maestro Ronaldo was my idol growing up in the game, and the forward above all others that I aspired to be. My earliest footballing memory however is a couple of years before Ronaldo really burst on the scene, watching another man in that famous yellow jersey lead his team to World Cup glory in 1994. I am of course talking about Romario, a player who alongside such other greats as Dunga, Bebeto and Cafu defined the magic of football in a way only South Americans can. Now I am sad to say that he too has announced his retirement aged 42, but having reached a milestone that only one other man in history can lay claim to; he has scored more than 1000 professional goals. The other? Who else, but Pele.
So let’s start at the beginning then. Born in very humble beginnings just outside of
amed FIFA World Player of the Year in 1994, after his country’s World Cup success in
From 2002 until 2004 he moved for Fluminense, and it looked like his career was finally at an end as he was in touching distance of his 40th birthday. On October 21, 2004 he was actually fired from the club after a conflict with the coach, and jeered off by the fans who felt he was too old to compete any longer. Like a man possessed Romario turned once again to Vasco da Gama and in the crowning glory of an epic career, Romário scored 22 goals in the Brazilian Championship, making him the league's top goal-scorer at 39 years of age. The 1000th goal came almost a year ago now, from the penalty spot against Sport Recife, and was greeted with a carnival of sorts from the fans who forced the game to be stopped for more than 20 minutes to allow for celebrations. Ever the spoil-sports, FIFA dispute this record as they claim 71 goals came in youth football and friendlies, but even playing by their rules, 929 goals ain’t too bad a tally.
As a member of the national team, Romario won the silver Olympic medal in
In the years that followed, Romario formed the Ro-Ro with the aforementioned Ronaldo, an attack that was feared to say the least. The pair had everything: pace, power, movement, vision and most importantly, blistering shooting ability off either foot. The peak of the Ro-Ro was a 6 – 0 victory over Australia in the 1997 Confederations Cup where they each scored a hat-trick, but between them they have won I think literally every world honour and trophy that’s worth winning. When asked what made their partnership so explosive, Romario humbly played down their outrageous gifts: “we had the opportunity and the honour to play alongside some very technically gifted, top-class footballers, and that made our job easier.” It’s a shame that Romario did not make it to subsequent World Cups, as a muscular problem kept him out of France 1998 and a bust-up with coach Scolari left him controversially at home for Korea 2002, but you can hardly criticize a man with statistics such as his, and a career that has spanned almost my entire lifetime.
To add a final bit of polish to what has been a quite miraculous career, here then are what three of the greatest players to ever touch a football said about him as he celebrated that 1000th goal:
Johan Cruyff : “(Romario was) a genius of the goal area.”
Diego Maradona : “(Romario was) an incredible finisher…he would be in my all-time dream team without any hesitation.”
Roberto Baggio : “Romario is one of the greatest players of all time. He has good technique and personality. He is a master of art in the penalty area.”
You will find Romario now chilling out in