Brazilian great Ronaldo tearfully announced his retirement today, admitting his body had finally succumbed to the crippling litany of injuries that have blighted his remarkable career.
The 34-year-old's career arguably reached its zenith with his masterly performances at the 2002 World Cup, but three serious knee injuries cast a pall over his later years in sport.
The three-time FIFA World Player of the Year will perhaps be best remembered for his international exploits, having scored 15 World Cup goals, breaking the record previously held by Gerd Muller.
He scored eight goals in the 2002 tournament in Japan and South Korea alone, including both goals in the 2-0 final victory over Germany, and in total scored 62 times for Brazil in 97 appearances.
But the latter years of his career had been little more than a constant struggle for fitness, and in announcing his retirement today Ronaldo admitted he was giving up an uneven struggle.
"The pain made me anticipate the end of my career," Ronaldo told a press conference this afternoon, at which he was flanked by his sons Alex and Ronald.
"It's very hard to leave something that made me so happy. Mentally I wanted to continue, but I have to acknowledge that I lost to my body."
A clearly emotional Ronaldo revealed he had for many years been battling hypothyroidism, a deficiency of thyroid hormone which affected his ability to stay on top of his weight.
The striker also confirmed a muscle injury sustained last week had been the trigger for him to call time on his career.
He said: "I thought about it at home and realised that it was time.
"I had given everything that I had."
In an earlier interview with Brazilian newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo, Ronaldo added: "I want to stay but I can't. I think of a move, but I can't perform it as I want to. It's time.
"My body aches. The head wants to continue, but the body can't take much more."
Ronaldo had been expected to see out the season with current club Corinthians and retire in July but the club's early elimination from the Copa Libertadores at the hands of Deportes Tolima a fortnight ago is also believed to have contributed to his decision to end his career ahead of schedule.
The loss to Tolima triggered an angry response from some Corinthians fans, with players' cars and their team bus subsequently vandalised.
But Ronaldo insisted the unrest did not hasten his departure.
"I've never seen fans with so much passion," he said.
"Their need for results sometimes made them a little aggressive, a bit out of control."
Earlier today Ronaldo had been seen visiting his team-mates at Corinthians' training ground, where he spoke briefly before leaving to confirm his retirement to the world's media.
"I thanked all the players, the coach Tite, for all the minutes, for every second I was with them," added Ronaldo.
"It was a very beautiful career, wonderful and exciting.
"[There were] a lot of defeats and a lot of victories. I made a lot of friends, and I can't recall any enemies."
Asked what he would now do with his time, he added: "I have my future well organised.
"I will work for my company... I have to put a lot of dedication into that."
Ronaldo first moved to Europe as a 17-year-old in 1994 when he joined PSV Eindhoven from Cruzeiro.
A prolific scorer in the Eredivisie, he joined Barcelona despite knee problems which blighted him in his second season in Holland, going on to achieve record-breaking success in Spain.
He spent just a year at Barca, scoring 47 goals in 49 games and becoming the youngest player to win the FIFA World Player of the Year award, before contract wrangles saw him join Inter Milan for a then world-record fee of £19million.
His success continued at Inter, then Barca's great rivals Real Madrid, though injury problems hindered his time in Italy.
Ronaldo joined AC Milan in 2007 but after suffering a third serious knee injury he returned to Brazil in 2009, signing a deal with Corinthians where he would go on to finish his career with the proud record of 352 goals in 515 appearances at domestic level.Reuse content