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Everything you thought you knew about Ronaldo is wrong

There’s a famous still photograph of Ronaldo from the 1998 World Cup, taken by Ross Kinnaird of Getty Images during Brazil’s group game against Morocco. Ronaldo is sprinting at full pelt, his arms and legs pumping so powerfully that they are no longer individually distinguishable as limbs: a pure blur of motion, a body working faster than the eye can follow. And yet the gaze is drawn, instead, to Ronaldo’s head, which by stark contrast is completely still: the expression calm, the mind free of interference, the eyes fixed devastatingly on their target.

It’s the quintessential Ronaldo image – indeed, one of the great football images – for its ability to capture, in a single shot and free of context, the simple synthesis of motion and stillness that defines the very greatest athletes at their peak. You didn’t need to be told that Ronaldo was the best striker in the world, or even a striker at all. You didn’t need to know that this was the biggest stage of them all, and that he owned it completely. And you didn’t need to be able to see the goal to know exactly where he was headed.

To look back now at Ronaldo’s performances in that tournament is to be struck by a certain wistfulness: the freshness and immediacy of the moment itself, inflected with the knowledge of what would follow. A few weeks after the Morocco game, Ronaldo would infamously and disastrously start the final against France despite being patently unfit. The following year – two decades ago this month – he was playing for Inter in a perfunctory 6-0 win over Lecce when his knee gave way, ushering in a new and painful chapter that would be marked by persistent injury and sad, irrevocable decline.

The Century: 100-1 countdown featuring Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and more

This week at The Independent we have been counting down through the 100 greatest players of the 21st century.

We asked ten of our football writers to identify the 50 greatest players of the past two decades, with each player assigned a number of points determined by their rank, before an overall list was then worked out.

In voting for the greatest players of the 21st century, our team of ten considered a few broad factors: a player’s ability and the actual application of that ability; the consistency of that application; the level they reached; their influence on the competition and – of course – their level of achievement.

The Century: 100-1 countdown featuring Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and more

This week at The Independent we have been counting down through the 100 greatest players of the 21st century.

We asked ten of our football writers to identify the 50 greatest players of the past two decades, with each player assigned a number of points determined by their rank, before an overall list was then worked out.

In voting for the greatest players of the 21st century, our team of ten considered a few broad factors: a player’s ability and the actual application of that ability; the consistency of that application; the level they reached; their influence on the competition and – of course – their level of achievement.

Premier League team news: How Liverpool, Man Utd, Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham and City will line up

The Premier League returns this weekend after a busy and eventful international break.

And it returns with a marquee clash of old foes, with Liverpool FC the visitors to Old Trafford to face struggling Manchester United on Sunday.

Also struggling are Tottenham Hotspur, in the midst of a crisis, but Mauricio Pochettino’s side have the ideal opportunity to get back on track at home to similarly-ailed Watford.

Juan Mata: Manchester United player mobbed by fans in Manchester

Manchester United midfielder Juan Mata is mobbed as he films with Football Focus in the city, posing for selfies and speaking with supporters old and young.

WATCH MORE: Juan Mata: 'I still call my mum before every match'

Watch the full feature on Football Focus, Saturday 19 October at 12:00 BST on BBC One and on BBC iPlayer.


This news item was provided by the BBC Sport - Football website - the original link is: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/av/football/50090380