SAO PAULO (AP) - Ronaldo retired from soccer Monday because his body can no longer meet the demands of the game, ending a magnificent career in which he won two World Cups with Brazil and thrived with some of Europe’s top teams.
With tears on his cheeks, the 34-year-old striker announced his decision at a news conference. He played 18 years despite repeated knee trouble and leaves as a three-timer FIFA player of the year and the top goal scorer in World Cup history.
“It’s very hard to leave something that made me so happy,” Ronaldo said. “Mentally, I wanted to continue, but I have to acknowledge that I lost (the fight) to my body.”
He said a string of injuries the past two years kept him from performing at a high level with the Brazilian club Corinthians. He also learned four years ago he had hypothyroidism, a condition that made it difficult for him to lose weight and stay in shape.
“The pain made me anticipate the end of my career,” he said.
With his uncanny sprints toward the goal and an extraordinary finishing touch, Ronaldo captivated fans everywhere he played, including Barcelona, Real Madrid and Inter Milan. All despite having to come back from three serious knee injuries that threatened to end his career.
“My career was beautiful, was wonderful,” he said. “I’ve had many defeats but infinite victories.”
Ronaldo’s contract with Corinthians was expected to end at the end of the year, but his condition kept deteriorating. He was visibly out of shape and fans jeered him after every missed play.
The announcement came days after he was heavily criticized by Corinthians fans for the team’s elimination from the Copa Libertadores, Latin America’s most important competition and the only major tournament the popular Brazilian club has yet to win.
Fans damaged players’ cars and threw rocks at the team bus to protest. Ronaldo, his voice cracking, said he wanted to only thank Corinthians fans for their support.
“I’ve never seen fans with so much passion,” he said.