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Former Brazil striker Ronaldo announced his retirement today but, he tells UEFA.com, he has left an "important legacy" – his only regret being a failure to savour UEFA Champions League glory.
The 34-year-old decided to call time on a glittering career 12 months earlier than planned in the wake of SC Corinthians' shock Copa Libertadores exit at the start of the month against Colombian side CD Tolima. He confirmed to a press conference: "As you can imagine and you heard during the whole weekend, I'm here today to [confirm that] I'm ending my career as a professional player."
In a newspaper interview, he had explained: "I can't take it any more. I wanted to carry on, but I can't. I plan a move [in a game] but I cannot execute it.
My time is up, but dammit it was nice." He departs the scene as one of the best players of the past quarter of a century. Three times FIFA World Player of the Year – a distinction he shares with former Real Madrid CF team-mate Zinédine Zidane – Ronaldo is the highest scorer in FIFA World Cup finals history with 15, two of them coming in Brazil's 2-0 final victory over Germany in 2002.
For over a decade his star shone bright on the European stage: he hit 273 goals in 402 games for PSV Eindhoven, FC Barcelona, FC Internazionale Milano, Real Madrid and AC Milan. He claimed honours at all bar Milan, including the 1997 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup with Barcelona. The following season, he starred in Inter's UEFA Cup triumph. The UEFA Champions League Trophy always eluded him, however. "Football has given me many things," he told UEFA.com. "But I live football with a passion which doesn't let me have peace for not winning the Champions League – it's surely a trophy everyone would like to win."
One of his finest hours came in Europe's premier club competition, though. In April 2003 Madrid arrived at Old Trafford 3-1 up after the first leg of their quarter-final against Manchester United FC. Home manager Sir Alex Ferguson admitted the key to turning it around was keeping Ronaldo quiet but, in the event, "we simply couldn't do it".
When he walked off to a standing ovation midway through the second half Ronaldo had dashed United dreams with a superb hat-trick. He could not find a way past Juventus in what would prove his only appearance in the last four, however, with a 4-3 aggregate defeat ending the Merengues' ambitions.
Always prolific – Ronaldo struck 62 goals in 97 international appearances – he was hampered by injuries at Milan and also after returning to Brazil in 2008, leading to today's announcement. "I think
I have left an important legacy in football but the time has come," he said. "I would say to a kid just starting out that football is not only about joy: you have to dedicate yourself to the game with military discipline. When children first dream about football, with all the magic you see on television, it's not like that.
You have to fight and struggle, make a name for yourself and create your own history." Ronaldo certainly did.
Ronaldo's memorable hat-trick for Madrid at Old Trafford is the subject of next Monday's UEFA Champions League Classics.
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