Posted: Tuesday January 17, 2006 12:49PM; Updated: Thursday January 19, 2006 12:39PM
SI.com: You made your international debut, went to your first World Cup and signed your first big professional contract with PSV Eindhoven in 1994. How did that year change your life?
Ronaldo: It was a great year for me, not only because I had the chance to share a World Cup with my teammates on Brazil's national team, but because I went to Europe. Indeed, if your aim is to improve in football, it is necessary to go to Europe because the best players in the world play there. It was a great opportunity for a young player and I did all I could to take advantage of it. I think that playing in Eindhoven was very good for my mentality, although most of what I am as a player today came from my period in Barcelona.
SI.com: You moved to Barcelona for a record $19.5 million transfer in 1996. What was that time like? Were you shocked at the amount the transfer was for?
Ronaldo: I was very happy in the Netherlands, but when Barcelona appeared in my life, it was a real chance to improve. I did not concern myself with the amount of the transfer fee, but obviously everybody talked about it. I got to play great football after signing with Barça and since then I have always been playing top-notch football, despite my injuries.
SI.com: You certainly lived up to the hype in your first season at Barça. You were the talk of the soccer world, scoring goals left and right, some from even the halfway line. Was there a goal or a play that season that even amazed you?
Ronaldo: I think that the most famous goal I ever scored was the one in Santiago, against Compostela, when I took the ball in the midfield and ran towards the goal, dribbling past a lot of players. Even the manager, Bobby Robson, was astonished with that goal, which was used by Nike for a commercial.
SI.com: One year later, you went to Inter Milan for a record $28 million transfer. What was that like to leave Barcelona for Milan and why did you decide to leave?
Ronaldo: I left Barcelona because the club's directors tried to lie to me during the conversations to renew my contract. I think that if they were not there, then perhaps I would still be playing in Barcelona.
SI.com: How did they lie to you?
Ronaldo: I'd rather not get into specifics. It's in the past.
SI.com: How much pressure was put on you going into the 1998 World Cup? Did the hype and attention ever become too much?
Ronaldo: As a Brazilian footballer, I get a lot of pressure, but nothing special compared to other sorts of pressure I have had during my career. When you play on the national team you must always win, but this is normal in my country.
SI.com: Talk about dealing with the controversy and disappointment following the '98 World Cup. Did you ever think you'd be the same player again after?
Ronaldo: There were some things that happened and that's all past. Of course I never thought I wouldn't be able to be the same player because I did not think that I would suffer the serious injuries I did.
SI.com: After losing to France in the World Cup final you were quoted as saying, "We lost the World Cup but I won another cup -- my life." What did you mean by that?
Ronaldo: I prefer not to speak about what happened that day, but I was scared when I was living in that situation. We did not know what was happening and, obviously, now we can say that life goes on.