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Blistering pace, leaving Man Utd shell-shocked and humility, Ronaldo’s old team-mates reveal what made him world-class

BRAZILIAN Ronaldo was a striker for the ages.

The former forward terrorised defences during a glittering career which saw him pick up two Ballon D'Or trophies and lift the 2002 World Cup.

The 43-year-old starred for both El Clasico giants Real Madrid and Barcelona and some of his former team-mates have revealed what it was that made him truly world class.

Many will remember the outrageous hairstyle he modelled in the 2002 World Cup but thankfully Ronaldo's efforts on the pitch were even more noteworthy as he pocketed the golden boot.

Those who played alongside one of the game's icons cite his speed, humility and the way he left Manchester United shell-shocked as key to his greatness.

Roberto Carlos

Speaking to Spanish outlet Marca, compatriot and close friend Roberto Carlos lauded Ronaldo's ability.

He said: "I have known Ronnie since 1993, when we started playing together, I had participated in almost everything Ronaldo has lived through in his career since then.

"When he was at Inter, I always spoke with him to find out how he was and he would tell me what was going on.

"It was in the Brazilian team where we have shared more time together, we shared a room at every international gathering."

Carlos recently claimed namesake Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi do not come close to the "unique" Brazilian. 

The legendary left-back and Ronaldo were part of the same Madrid Galacticos side for five years between 2002-2007.

Carlos added: "We always saw each other, I would finish training and go to his house, or he would come to me, we spent all our time together.

"He was the best striker in the world, he gave us a lot of confidence. The key to defending against him was to stop him getting the ball."

Oscar Garcia

Oscar Garcia played under the late Sir Bobby Robson with Ronaldo at the Nou Camp in the 1996/97 season and witnessed his pace and humility while wearing the Barcelona shirt.

He told Marca: " I was lucky to be very close to him for some of his goals, I saw how fast he was moving, it was even difficult to catch him to celebrate goals, he was still at the same speed.

"From his very first training sessions we saw that he was a different player and that he was going to help us a lot.

"You just knew he was going to be a world star, and he was, but what caught my attention most was his humility, he treated everyone the same and was always smiling and joking, he gained confidence very quickly.

"Until the arrival of Messi, I hadn't seen a player who drove with the ball at that speed.  I have only seen him and Messi do that.

"I have been fortunate to have many great teammates, but without a doubt Ronaldo is in the top three."

Abelardo Fernandez

Espanyol boss Abelardo Fernandez also recalled his experience of Ronaldo while playing for the Catalan giants.

He told Marca: "He was spectacular, the most powerful striker I have ever played with.

"I only worked with him for a single season at Barcelona, but I think that was his best season, he was only 20.

"His goal against Compostela perfectly illustrated what Ronaldo was at that time, it had everything: strength, speed, control of the ball and the goal was always in his eye-line."

Tote

One peerless performance from Ronaldo's time in the Spanish capital came in the 2002/03 Champions League quarter-final against United.

He bagged a sensational hat-trick at Old Trafford and received a standing ovation from the opposition's supporters.

Madrid qualified for the semi-finals despite losing 4-3 on a historic night in 2003, as their 3-1 win at the Bernabeu in the first leg gave the Spanish team a 6-5 aggregate victory.

Former colleague Tote had a privileged view from the side of the pitch of Ronaldo's extraordinary display.

He told Marca: "At Old Trafford I was on the bench, virtually sat with the fans and you noticed just how much respect they had for him.

"He scored three goals and they applauded him, you can feel the fear and the emptiness in a stadium when he got the ball, that's only managed by the true greats.

"Ronaldo was very good with people, even with a youngster like me."

Ronaldo retired from football in 2011 after returning to his homeland to play for Brazilian side Corinthians.

He is now the owner and president of Spanish outfit Real Valladolid.

Last month he omitted Cristiano Ronaldo from a list of the top five current players he enjoys watching, with Lionel Messi at no1.

Watch ‘most expensive transfer of all time’ Ronaldo’s top 3 free kicks for Inter Milan

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