He has been jeered by fans,
criticized by Michel Platini and Pele, and considering leaving Real Madrid. But
striker Ronaldo is the key to Brazil's hopes to win the World Cup this summer.
Brazil coach Carlos Alberto Parreira said Wednesday that Ronaldo had a
guaranteed spot on the team that will seek a record sixth Cup title in Germany.
"I'm certain that Ronaldo will have a great World Cup, because he is a player
for special moments," Parreira said in an interview with Pele's Web site.
Parreira downplayed recent criticism that the player was too old, too fat and
too preoccupied with off-field problems to deliver during his fourth World Cup
-- on a team brimming with talent.
"Ronaldo has great personal challenges. He can break records. So it would be a
great disappointment if he didn't have a terrific World Cup," Parreira said in
Ronaldo, 29, has a chance to become the tournament's all-time scoring leader. He
has 12 goals, two fewer than record-holder Gerd Muller of Germany and one less
than France's Just Fontaine.
He also could equal Pele's feat as a three-time Cup winner. Pele won titles in
1958, '62 and '70, while Ronaldo won titles in 1994 and 2002.
But Ronaldo has struggled recently on Real Madrid. Since he joined the club in
2002 and led the team to a record 29th Spanish league title, Real Madrid hasn't
won a trophy since -- its longest drought in 50 years.
Criticism has been plentiful. Pele said Ronaldo's performance was affected by
off-field problems, including a stormy marriage and divorce barely three months
later with Brazilian model and television hostess Daniella Cicarelli.
Former French star Michel Platini said Ronaldo "has too many years and is
carrying too many kilos" to play top-level soccer.
Ronaldo, under contract with Real until 2008, has said he feels unwanted and is
considering leaving the Spanish side because of the constant criticism.
He also is facing competition from a plethora of young Brazilians, including
Real Madrid teammate Robinho, Inter Milan's Adriano, and Barcelona standout
Ronaldinho, FIFA's player of the year the past two years.
But Ronaldo has rebounded from adversity before. After a serious knee injury
nearly ended his career, he returned to lead Brazil to its fifth Cup title in
2002 -- winning the tournament scoring title in addition.
And Parreira thinks his experience will give Brazil an edge.
"Ronaldo has to lead us and be our reference point," Parreira said. "He has to
shoulder his responsibility."