Ronaldo, a phenomenon in BarcelonaFew players have had the quality and talent of Ronaldo, the one that some call the original Ronaldo, the Brazilian or the phenomenon and few have had such a great impact on a major club in Europe with so little time in an institution as the one that the had in his only season at FC Barcelona. It is noteworthy that despite having spent a short time in Barcelona and subsequently playing for the Catalans' eternal rival, Real Madrid, the memory of Ronaldo that remains in the culé fan who was able to see him in the 1996-97 season is extremely pleasant.
Below we will review Ronaldo's arrival to Barcelona, his time at the club and the conditions in which he left, which were strange to say the least, especially after the performance he showed with a Barcelona shirt.
Ronaldo's first stepsOriginally from Rio de Janeiro, Ronaldo started at a very young age in the world of football through futsal where he developed that characteristic skill for dribbling and his pace. At the age of 13, he began his stage in football, with Sao Cristovao, a small club in the area, where he would be seen by Jairzinho, world champion with the Brazilian national team in 1970, who would recommend him to Cruzeiro, a club that would end up hiring him at the age of 16.
The impact on the Cruzeiro youth team was such that in three months he was already playing with the first team where he dazzled both locally and internationally. His performance led him to be part of Brazil's squad for the FIFA World Cup in 1994 at just 17 years old despite the fact that he did not play a single minute in the tournament. Offers for Ronaldo began to arrive at Cruzeiro's offices from many different teams, but Romario's recommendation led him to sign for PSV Eindhoven.
Arrival to BarcelonaAfter two very good years in the Netherlands, Ronaldo added 98 goals as a professional at club level in 104 games, that is, he averaged 0.94 goals per game at just 19 years old. This caught the attention of many top clubs in Europe that included Inter Milan or FC Barcelona, but it was the Catalan club that made an important outlay for the times, around 16 million euros, making it the most expensive signing in football history in that particular moment.
At the end of the previous season, Johan Cruyff put an end to eight successful years as manager of Barcelona and his replacement was Sir Bobby Robson, who arrived from FC Porto. The English coach wanted to strengthen the club's attacking line and his first option was his compatriot Alan Shearer, although Blackburn Rovers refused to sell him and that led Barcelona to sign the Brazilian. Interestingly enough, Shearer would leave Blackburn a few weeks later to sign for Newcastle United for an amount of 18 million euros, beating Ronaldo's record.
The 1996-97 seasonStatistically, we can say that Ronaldo scored 47 goals in 49 games during the only season he stayed at Barcelona, which is already impressive enough, but the quality and importance of many of those goals was what left his name marked in the memory of fans.
At the beginning of the season, Barcelona participated in the Spanish Super Cup against Atlético Madrid. In the first leg, the Madrid club won 3-1 and in the second leg it was 2-2 until the 74th minute, with one of the Catalan club's goals scored by Ronaldo. After a brilliant couple of minutes where Barcelona scored 2 goals thanks to Pizzi and De la Peña, only one more goal was needed to obtain the title and this goal came thanks to Ronaldo in the 89th minute, sealing a historic comeback and this being the Brazilian's introduction to his new fans.
On October 12, 1996, in a Spanish league match, Ronaldo scored an impressive goal by taking the ball in his own half of the pitch, bypassing two defenders and starting a run in which he left several rival defenders on the way to enter the area and score. Just look at Robson's reaction after the goal, putting his hands in his head, showing his astonishment at what he had just seen.
Only 14 days later, he would score a hat-trick against Valencia to give Barcelona a 3-2 victory, the third goal being a demonstration of speed and physical strength to pass between two defenders and an incredible ease to finish by being calm enough to score in front of the goalkeeper. As well as these, there are other examples where Ronaldo left samples of his quality in Spain. That season, the only one for the Brazilian at the club, Barcelona won the Spanish Super Cup, the European Cup Winners' Cup and the Copa del Rey.
The signing for InterRonaldo seemed to be happy in Barcelona and clearly FC Barcelona was happy with Ronaldo who, at 20 years old, had everything to become a club legend. In that sense, the club negotiated for several months the renewal of the Brazilian's contract until in June 1997 they had reached an agreement or at least it seemed that way. During a dinner between the leaders of Barcelona, Ronaldo's two agents and the player himself, the figures and clauses of the new contract had been defined, so they decided to toast and then go to sign in the club's offices.
During the toast, one of the agents received a call and was absent for a period of around 20 minutes. Upon returning, they proposed to review the conditions of the contract again, starting a new negotiation period that never managed to close with a satisfactory agreement. This was because the call had been from Massimo Moratti, president of Inter Milan, who had offered a contract that Barcelona could not match. Finally, Inter paid 24 million euros to Barcelona, once again making Ronaldo the most expensive signing in football history.
According to the Barcelona board who led the negotiation, Ronaldo wanted to stay at the club but the influence of his agents was what led him to accept Inter's offer where, it is worth mentioning, he was received as a hero and that, if not had it been due to injuries, it could have marked an era in the Italian club.