El Fenomeno Classics - 5 Sensational Ronaldo Goals You've Probably Never Seen

Ronaldo – the original Ronaldo – turned 40 last week. 

Unsurprisingly, the occasion was marked by a fresh wave of appreciation. In the pre-Cristiano, pre-Messi era, the Brazilian stood out as modern football's most complete goalscorer, capable of both staggering displays of power and feats of delicacy that could make the heart flutter.

Ronaldo was also the master of reinvention, although not by choice: a string of serious knee injuries forced him to continuously adapt to diminishing physical capabilities. It is likely that we would be talking about him in the same breath as Pele, Maradona and Messi had he not been struck down in his prime.

The forward's most famous goals are pillars of the collective memory: those bulldozing individual efforts for Barcelona, the quicksilver feet and improvised finishes at Internazionale, his redemptive strike in the 2002 World Cup final for Brazil. The highlights reel certainly makes for nostalgic viewing.

But Ronaldo's back catalogue is so colossal that lesser-known gems abound. Here are five brilliant Ronaldo goals you may not have seen before, from the book-ends of his career:


1. Cruzeiro vs Bahia, Campeonato Brasileiro, 1993

Ronaldo was just 16 when he broke into Cruzeiro's first team, having convinced coach Carlos Alberto Silva of his quality during a pre-season trip to Portugal. His debut came in July 1993 and he rattled in 12 goals before the end of the year, becoming a national sensation in the process. 

Perhaps the most memorable of those strikes came in the 6-0 victory over Bahia at the Mineirão. Ronaldo netted five times, but it was a moment of opportunism that caught the eye, the forward stealing the ball from unsuspecting Uruguayan goalkeeper Rodolfo Rodríguez – who had just saved from Nonato – and rolling the ball into the empty net.

"Did you get that on tape?" Ronaldo asked reporters afterwards. Unfortunately for Rodríguez, they had.


2. Cruzeiro vs Boca Juniors, Copa Libertadores, 1994

A year later, Ronaldo was already strutting his stuff against South America's best. This strike, at home to Boca Juniors, helped Cruzeiro to a famous 2-1 victory and provided a thrilling flash forward to the kind of goals that Ronaldo would be scoring for Barcelona a few years later.

Picking the ball up just inside Boca's half, Ronaldo looks up and sees three defenders. After briefly weighing up his options, he decides the best option is to just blast his way through the middle of them, like a pneumatic drill through butter. When the goalkeeper comes out, he simply waits for him to lie down before slipping the ball home. Unstoppable.


3. Brazil under-23s vs Ghana, Olympic Games, 1996

Ronaldo was surprisingly left out of Brazil's Olympic opener in Atlanta, Mário Zagallo punishing him for disrupting preparations for the tournament by pushing through his transfer to Barcelona. But after a shock defeat to Japan, the forward was recalled and promptly scored against Hungary and Nigeria, helping Brazil into the quarter-finals.

Ghana were Brazil's opponents and could not live with Ronaldo's power. He slammed home his first after a quick free-kick from Juninho before putting Brazil ahead with a moment of genius. The teenager – who had 'Ronaldinho' on his jersey due to Ronaldo Guiaro's presence in the squad – sprinted onto Bebeto's through pass, rode a challenge with typical strength and coaxed a staggering finish over the head of Ghana's Simon Addo.


4. Brazil vs Lithuania, international friendly, 1996

The game came so easy to Ronaldo that opponents must have felt he had been handed a script or a cheat code before each match. This goal, part of his first senior Seleção hat-trick in a friendly win over Lithuania in Teresina, was Ronaldo at his nuisance best. 

First, there is the anticipation to seize upon the defender's error and force the goalkeeper into a rash challenge. Then there is the sangfroid to take not one, not two, but three touches on the goal line before surging back across goal. With the keeper and another defender recreating a scene from a car crash by the post, Ronaldo has the easy task of slotting home. A devilishly good bit of finishing.


5. Corinthians vs Santos, Campeonato Paulista, 2009

We now jump 13 years on the timeline, skipping past PSV, Barcelona, Inter, Real Madrid, World Cups and all the other stuff you know inside-out. 

By the time Ronaldo returned to Brazil, he was far from the athlete Cruzeiro fans once new. The knee problems had stripped him of his pace and medication for an ongoing thyroid issue had led to the weight gain for which he would long be mocked. But still, there was something there: he scored 35 times in two seasons with Corinthians, helping the São Paulo giants to state championship and Copa do Brasil glory in 2009, becoming a club icon in double-quick time. 

The goal that stands out is this peach in the first leg of the Campeonato Paulista final against Santos. In his earlier years, Ronaldo would have gathered that pass and sprinted in on goal unchallenged. Instead, knowing he lacked the pace to go clear, the 32-year-old sashayed inside, steadied himself and clipped a slow-motion shot over the head of Fábio Costa and into the corner of the net. Fitness may be temporary but class never deserts the masters.