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   June 27, 2002 | 1645 IST


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How Ronaldo got a boost from Pele

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It was the lowest point in Ronaldo's career.

After suffering a terrible knee injury in the 2000 Italian Cup final, the Brazilian striker needed something to inspire him, someone to convince him that despite the operations and months of medical tests that lay ahead he could once again be among the greats of the game.

And who better than Pele to provide that moral boost?

After visiting a sports injury specialist in Paris, Ronaldo had returned to Brazil to begin his long road to recovery and was paid a visit by his country's most famous footballer.

"Pele told me that he had suffered a bad injury during the 1966 World Cup and that the doctors told him he might never play again," Ronaldo said.

"But he did. Four years later he won the World Cup in 1970 and was chosen as player of the tournament. Pele gave me the courage to persevere," said the striker.

RonaldoRonaldo's determination and Pele's faith have certainly been rewarded at this World Cup.

Just three and a half months after making his full return from injury, Ronaldo is the top scorer in the tournament with six goals -- the latest being his toepoked winner in Wednesday's 1-0 semi-final win against Turkey.

He is now just two goals away from Pele's Brazilian record of 12 goals in World Cup finals.


Ronaldo is also well-placed to win the 'golden boot' award for top scorer in this Cup to add to his award as player of the tournament in 1998.

There is a certain symmetry between the career's of Ronaldo and his father figure Pele.

Both began their World Cup careers at a tender age -- Pele was the youngest player ever to score in the finals when he was on target as a 17-year-old against Wales in Sweden in 1958 and then became the youngest to score a hat-trick -- in the 5-2 semi-final win over France.

Ronaldo was included in the Brazil squad at the same age in 1994 although he never actually entered the field as his country went on to win the final, on penalties, against Italy.

Both have suffered the bitterness of World Cup disappointment.

Pele was part of the 1966 squad which failed at the first hurdle, finishing third in their group after 3-1 defeats to Hungary and Portugal -- Pele himself ending the latter match with a knee injury.

Ronaldo was at the centre of controversy in 1998 in France, almost sleepwalking his way through the final which Brazil lost 3-0 to the hosts.

He had initially been left off the team sheet before taking to the field but was clearly far from fully fit and the mystery surrounding his condition was the opening chapter in the years of misery that were to follow.

But both bounced back.

Pele's return from injury in 1970 saw him score six goals, the same as Ronaldo in this tournament, en route to a 4-1 win over Italy in the final.

Although the pair both enjoy idol status in their homeland, their skills differ greatly.

While Ronaldo is an out-and-out centre-forward, at his best in or around the penalty area, Pele was more versatile, capable of starting an attack and creating a chance as much as finishing off a flowing move.

For all the comparisons with Pele and for all the honours within his reach now, Ronaldo is simply glad that he is back on the field after three miserable years of medical woes.

"Winning or losing, my big victory is to play again. After all the suffering, I feel extremely happy to be able to score goals, to run, to play football. The nightmare is over."

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