Wednesday June 20 2018
On this day: Ronaldo joins Inter

On this day in 1997, Inter completed the world record signing of Ronaldo from Barcelona.

The Brazilian had scored 47 goals in 49 games for the Blaugrana in the 1996-97 season, but the relationship quickly soured.

Barça were looking to tie the 20-year-old to a 10-year contract, but the talks ultimately collapsed and opened the door for the Nerazzurri.

“No-one thought it was possible to buy him, so I didn’t compete,” former Inter President Massimo Moratti recalled in an interview with Mi-Tomorrow this week.

“He had problems with Barcelona though, and once the release clause was paid it was just up tot the player to decide. The final act was when I was going to Padua for work, Giovanni Branchini called and said we could do it.

“At that point I paid a visit to Saint Anthony…”

The deal was completed for a fee of 48 billion lire, or £19.5m.

Ronaldo had an immediate impact in Serie A, scoring 25 League goals in his first season and terrifying even the toughest of Italian defences.

Where later in his career Ronaldo became more of a penalty box poacher, with the Beneamata he was a true all-rounder, scoring free-kicks, going on mazy runs and providing assists.

His first season at San Siro brought the UEFA Cup, with the Brazilian six goals in 11 games, including including one in the final against Lazio, a 3-0 win in which he received the man of the match award.

Such was the star power of Ronaldo, the Nerazzurri were able to renegotiate their shirt manufacturing deal with Umbro.

“I told Nike that if I took Ronaldo they’d have to give me a very different deal for sponsorship,” Moratti explained. “They didn’t believe I could do it, so they told me yes.

“It was a whim of mine, when you a buy a club you dream of something exceptional, even at the expense of perfect administration.”

Ronaldo went into the 1998 World Cup regarded as the best player in the world, and helped Brazil to reach the final, but a mysterious fit before the showpiece match saw him a shadow of his true self.

It didn’t seem to affect him long-term though, with the striker scoring 15 goals in 28 games over the 1998-99 season.

When Inter broke the world transfer record again that summer, signing Cristian Vieri to play with Ronaldo, the Beneamata fans began dreaming of a first Scudetto since 1989.

That season was to be the start of a personal nightmare for Ronaldo though, as he suffered a cruciate ligament injury against Lecce on November 29.

Following an operation, he returned to action in April’s Coppa Italia final, but the reconstructed knee collapsed, and Ronaldo missed the whole of the next season.

He played just eight games between the summers 1999 and 2001.

The Brazilian finally managed a tentative return to the pitch for the 2001-02 season, and four goals in Weeks 31, 32 and 33 had the Beneamata leading Serie A on the final day.

However, a dramatic collapse against Lazio saw Hector Cuper’s side defeated 4-2, Ronaldo weeping on the bench as another Scudetto slipped away.

He never played for the Nerazzurri again, joining Real Madrid for €46m that summer after firing Brazil to glory at the World Cup.

Though he’d score 104 goals in his 177 games for Los Merengues, many would say he was never the same player as at Inter, his pace and dribbling curtailed by injury, though the deadly finishing remained.

A brief spell with Milan somewhat soured Il Fenomeno’s relationship with the Nerazzurri fans, but after another knee injury he returned to Brazil to finish his career with Corinthians.

Ronaldo at Inter:

Games: 99
Goals: 59
Honours: UEFA Cup [1998]

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