Romario is number 21 in 90min’s Top 50 Greatest Footballers of All Time series
It really is astonishing that Brazilian legend Romario only retired in 2009.
It’s a testament to the longevity, however, of a man who took no prisoners, did it all his own way, and scored goals right up until the bitter end.
Distilling 24 years down to four moments that encapsulate one of the most celebrated careers in South American football history is no easy task, but here they are.
Upon arriving at Barcelona from PSV, Romario wasted no time in making an impact. He netted a casual 30 goals in 33 games in his debut league season, three of which came in a stunning derby showing against Real Madrid.
His memorable hat trick came in a 5-0 January El Clasico demolition, the pick of the goals shown above as he took a pass from Pep Guardiola and executed an ankle-snapping 180 degree turn before slotting past Paco Buyo.
The 1994 World Cup, from start to finish, was very much the ‘Romario Show’. By now he was hitting his prime, and after dragging his country to the tournament with a match-winning double against Uruguay, he would net five goals in the finals as Brazil went on to lift the trophy for the first time since 1970.
Only in the 1-0 win over the United States in the last 16, did he fail to hit the back of the net at any stage. He scored from open play in their other five matches, and buried his penalty in the final shootout with Italy.
Of Brazil’s successes, this one was infamous, with their focus on defensive structure infuriating the samba purists back home. Had they not had Romario’s formidable threat leading the line, however, their 11-goal attack would have been far less potent.
No huge surprise, then, when he was named FIFA’s World Player of the Year for 1994, having finished as runner-up to Roberto Baggio a year earlier.
So just this, the Spanish title, the World Cup and World Cup Golden Ball to show for his efforts then, in a year in which he punched Diego Simeone in the face and capped off by leaving Barca for Flamengo.
I did say he did things his own way…
While a move to Brazil nowadays perhaps signifies the beginning of the end, but not quite so for this man. It would be another 14 years before he would hang up his boots for the final time, and he’d have a brief foray back into Europe with Valencia in 1996/97.
It was during this time that the ‘Ro-Ro’ partnership (see, that nonsensical headline did have a purpose) between him and Ronaldo went absolutely nuts on the international stage. The two netted 34 goals between them (19-15) in 1997, capped off with a hat-trick each against Australia in a 6-0 Confederations Cup final victory.
Romario, typically, took home the Golden Ball and the Golden Boot for the tournament.
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90min’s ‘Top 50 Greatest Footballers of All Time’ can be found here
Number 50: Luka Modric
Number 49: John Charles
Number 48: Hugo Sanchez
Number 47: Jairzinho
Number 46: Omar Sivori
Number 45: Paolo Rossi
Number 44: Paul Breitner
Number 43: George Weah
Number 42: Kaka
Number 41: Lev Yashin
Number 40: Gunnar Nordahl
Number 39: Kevin Keegan
Number 38: Hristo Stoichkov
Number 37: Gianluigi Buffon
Number 36: Johan Neeskens
Number 35: Xavi Hernandez
Number 34: Luis Suarez
Number 33: Karl-Heinz Rummenigge
Number 32: Andres Iniesta
Number 31: Rivelino
Number 30: Bobby Moore
Number 29: Socrates
Number 28: Sandor Kocsis
Number 27: Lothar Matthaus
Number 26: Ronaldinho
Number 25: Ruud Gullit
Number 24: Bobby Charlton
Number 23: Giuseppe Meazza
Number 22: Raymond Kopa