Posted: Tuesday January 17, 2006 12:49PM; Updated: Thursday January 19, 2006 12:39PM
SI.com: What were the following three years like when you were constantly battling to get healthy?
Ronaldo: All I can say is that I think I have been the only person who never doubted myself.
SI.com: Talk about the Italian Cup in 2000, in which you finally got on the pitch after four months out and having your knee buckle and being carted off. After everything you had gone through, what was going through your mind as you were being taken off the field?
Ronaldo: It was an awful situation because I felt down when I was laying on the pitch, but soon I had the feeling that I would overcome the injury and play again as healthy as I did before. I always believe I will come back when I get hurt.
SI.com: What were you feeling going into the World Cup in 2002, did you ever think you could have the kind of tournament that you did?
Ronaldo: When I got the confidence of [then manager] Luiz Felipe Scolari, I thought that I must give my life to fight for the tournament and, if possible, win the Cup for my country and all the people who trusted in me.
SI.com: Describe your emotions after winning the '02 World Cup -- was that like a rebirth for you?
Ronaldo: You could say that, mostly after a tough year, in which I did not play regularly. The most important thing was that Brazil won the Pentacampeonato.
SI.com: After gaining your health and confidence, why did you want to leave Inter and play for Real Madrid?
Ronaldo: It was simple, because I did not play in Inter and Real Madrid gave me the chance to recover my confidence and play again.
SI.com: This time your transfer fee was about $47 million -- did you ever dream when you were a child that you would be commanding this kind of money?
Ronaldo: When you are a child you only think about playing football, you never think about money. I hope that all the children who are playing football are not concerned about the money but about the sport.
SI.com: Speaking of children, you have a son -- is it difficult having a private life? It seems like your love life gets more coverage than your professional career at times.
Ronaldo: Yes, it is rather difficult having a private life, but I prefer not to refer to my private life.
SI.com: But what do you do when you want to go out with your friends or meet new people? Is that even possible for you to do now?
Ronaldo: It's not difficult to do that. I am free to meet other people, to go to the cinema or walk with my son. Fortunately, people respect me and allow me to do these kinds of things.
SI.com: What do you like to do off the pitch to relax?
Ronaldo: I like being with my friends and my son, walking or going to the cinema, playing golf and listening to the music.
SI.com: What kind of music do you like? If I were to look at your CD player, what artists would I find?
Ronaldo: I like Brazilian music and hip hop, but if you have a look at my CD player you will find some records by U2.
SI.com: Talk about being a goal away from breaking Pelé's World Cup goals record? How much does that mean to you?
Ronaldo: Pelé was a legend and everything that can approach me to him is a great honor for me.
SI.com: You have been in the spotlight for over a decade, how much longer do you envision yourself playing? Where would you want to end your career?
Ronaldo: I have enjoyed football and everything I have comes from this sport. About my career, I signed a contract with Real Madrid until 2008 and I want to finish my days in football here at Madrid.
SI.com: What are your thoughts on playing on the Brazilian national team this year? How much longer do you see yourself playing for your country?
Ronaldo: For a Brazilian, playing on the national team is the most important thing. I am excited to be playing in this World Cup for Brazil and I want to go on until I am not able to play at a high level.
SI.com: Who were your heroes and favorite player while you were growing up?
Ronaldo: My hero and my favorite player are the same person: [Brazilian soccer legend] Zico.
SI.com: What other sports are you a fan of and who do you enjoy watching the most play another sport?
Ronaldo: I love playing golf and I like watching Tiger Woods play. I also loved watching Michael Jordan in basketball when he played.
SI.com: You've had many, but what do you feel was your greatest moment as a player?
Ronaldo: Yes, there are a few, but perhaps when we won the World Cup in Japan, after recovering from my injuries.
SI.com: What are your thoughts on American soccer? Do you ever envision yourself playing in the States, much like Pelé, at the end of your career?
Ronaldo: Who knows what will happen in future. I have a lot of confidence in the growth of soccer in the United States. I think that soccer has been the sport that has grown the most in universities in the USA and that's great to know. It will only get bigger and better.
SI.com: How would you liked to be remembered when you retire?
Ronaldo: Nothing special. Just as a good player and a good person.
SI.com: Finally, so much has been written about you over the years, what's one thing that people don't know about you that would surprise them?
Ronaldo: I'd like to keep those things as a surprise for people in the future ... if they get to know me then, then they'll find out.