The Next… Ronaldo?

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Aarran Summers


Ronaldo was once called the greatest player in world football. We look at three fellow Brazilians who showed tremendous potential but ultimately failed to emulate the former number nine. 


Alexandre Pato

From incredible potential to obscurity, Alexandre Pato was regarded by many as the next best thing in Brazilian football. He was predicted to emulate Ronaldo and also the great Pele before that.

After signing for AC Milan, it was his off-field actions that caught the eye. On the field, a succession of injuries hampered his development. Pato missed the first half of 2013 with a thigh injury. After a difficult time at Milan, Pato moved back to his native Brazil and signed for Corinthians.

Pato scored with his first touch at the club but faced mounting criticism for his performances. Following loan spells at Sao Paulo and a disastrous spell at Chelsea, Pato moved to China to play for Tianjin Quanjian.

Now aged thirty, Pato has returned to Brazil with São Paulo, once seen as the next best thing, his fall from grace was quite extraordinary.


Unlike his fellow Brazilian above, Adriano did play at a FIFA World Cup. The tournament in Germany was one to forget, though. His position in the well-publicised 'magic quartet' including Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Kaka struggled to make an impact as they crashed out at the quarter-final stage.

Adriano was groomed as the natural successor to Ronaldo when he made his debut in 2000. His performances for Flamengo, Inter and Parma were encouraging. 

When he re-joined Inter for a second time, Adriano would suffer a personal tragedy that would ultimately change his career. His father's death would have a profound impact on his life.

His former teammate Ivan Cordoba once famously said to him "Are you aware you could become the best player ever?" When Adriano signed for Manchester City, the club's owner at the time, Thaksin Shinawatra, once said, "Adriano lost form when his father died, and put on weight."

Adriano was stocky when the World Cup came around in 2006. His career was slowly petering out. Adriano retired in 2014 – his tragedy leaving having a lasting impact on a player destined for the top.


Before Adriano and Pato roamed the pitch, there was one player also who touted to be the beating heart of Brazilian football. Denilson played with Ronaldo in his prime and burst onto the scene at the 1998 World Cup; coming off the bench to hit the crossbar in the final. Denilson's full debut happened before his 20th birthday in 1996. 

He featured in two World Cups and was part of what of the winning team in 2002. When the 1994 World Cup-winning coach Carlos Perreira returned, Denilson was never selected again, and his international career ended the following year.

Denilson's club career saw him feature for Real Betis in a seven-year spell. After that, the playmaker enjoyed stints in Saudi Arabia, the United States and finally to Greece.

A once technically gifted and creative player, Denilson was unable to fulfil his potential.