"I’ve never seen anything like it." Teammates and opponents, fans and pundits were all more or less in agreement when describing the Ronaldo seen in Nerazzurri colours. He was basically an extraterrestrial, something totally different to the forwards seen in the first century of football. Or rather, he was a ‘Fenomeno’ as the Curva Nord named him in their chants and the nickname stayed with him.
‘Ronnie’ was Inter. He remained at the centre of the footballing universe, he won the UEFA Cup and just missed out on the Scudetto twice for reasons that weren’t limited solely to him and his teammates. Nobody had ever combined that speed and technique. The Brazilian redefined the concept of a forward and dragged it into modernity. Massimo Moratti was able to realise that, despite the years spent playing at a stratospheric level, Ronaldo wasn’t happy at Barcelona and he wanted to go to Inter. It all worked out beautifully, right from the start. From when thousands of Inter fans greeted him him in his shirt sleeves from the balcony on via Durini to when former Inter captain Massimo Paganin bought his feint, as he passed by him to score his first goal in Italy. He certainly wasn’t the only one to see that such a forward seemed impossible to stop, even the dark arts didn’t work.
If the pitch conditions weren’t ideal, he somehow became even stronger like in Moscow when he danced on the ice to take Inter to the UEFA Cup final against Lazio. There, he bamboozled Marchegiani, leaving him on the floor with Ronaldo not even having to touch the ball, so disorientated was he by his body feints. Alessandro Nesta was one of the strongest defenders of his generation and he asked him politely if he could stop humiliating everyone with the final already won.
It was in Paris in what was supposed to be the appetiser for the World Cup which arrived four years later with Ronaldo finishing as top scorer. Like how Meazza played for Milan, he left for Real Madrid but history will always remember Ronaldo the Interista, the player who saw thousands of kids shave their heads to be more like him: il Fenomeno.
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