Ahead of this year's tournament, Playboy Brazil spoke with Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima, the 1998 World Cup Golden Ball winner [player of the tournament] and the 2002 Golden Boot winner [top goal scorer] about his role in the 2014 World Cup Local Organizing Committee—and about skulduggery in soccer, the Brazilian Soccer Confederation, presidential elections, women, and his lack of calling to be a coach.
"I've already talked to Playboy, haven't I?" Such a doubt is understandable for someone like Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima, who has been living under the spotlight since he was 16—when he appeared as a star player in Cruzeiro, a Brazilian team in the 1993 National Tournament. In his first interview, made in September 2000, Ronaldo (or rather Ronaldinho, as he was affectionately dubbed then), was recovering from a serious knee injury. With his halo somewhat scratched by the 1998 France World Cup defeat, he said "I want people to talk about the goal I scored."
Well, not only was he talked about for what he did best, he also scored some of the most important goals in the Brazilian National Team's recent record, going on to become the greatest scorer in World Cup history, with 15 goals, as well as one of the major actors in the 2002 Brazilian conquest of its Fifth World Cup, in Korea and Japan. A powerful trademark at 37, the former player is worth as much or more now than when he paraded his talent on the pitch, and actively uses his charismatic personality to sell products ranging from beer to deodorants to the Brazilian World Cup itself. In 2011, he lent his successful sportsman image to the Local Organizing Committee, by accepting a role as a member.
Reporter João Pedro Jorge met him in late April for two hours during the Champion's League semi-finals between Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, in the premises of his sports marketing agency, located in one of São Paulo's most affluent districts—the TV set was on, naturally—reflect his "Midas touch". The soccer table is sponsored by a search engine, the video game by a battery brand, and the fridge—of course—by Brazil's "number one" beer. Nothing is left to chance.
Ronaldo is the son of Nélio Nazário de Lima, an ex-technician of the old Rio de Janeiro telephone company, and Sônia Barata Nazário de Lima, an operator in the same corporation; he is himself father to 14 year-old Ronald and 8 year-old Alexander, as well as Maria Sofia and Maria Alice, aged 5 and 4 respectively; Ronaldo went on to rise from boy prodigy to major star to finally, sheer legend. Nowadays, he is frequently inlcuded on all-star lists spanning the whole history of soccer. The proud recipient of two Ballons d' Or, in 1997 and 2002, and three times chosen as FIFA World Player of the Year, in 1996, 1997 and 2002, everything with him is superlative—even polemics. His role as member of the Local Organizing Committee somewhat toned down his image of "Teflon Boy"—someone to whom nothing would stick, not even the controversial 2008 episode with transvestites—which, by the way, he recounts in this interview. Finally forced to face another kind of spotlight, answering on delays in stadium building and issues with public money, education and health investments, he got himself in trouble a couple of times (his infamous remark "World Cups aren't made with hospitals" ran the world). Now, more than ever, Ronaldo is taken to task for what he says. But, just as in the past, he is not afraid to speak out his mind.
PLAYBOY: About the World Cup—will it happen?
RONALDO: Absolutely! It will happen, and it will be beautiful. This is the most promising World Cup in recent years. The level is so high: the best players, the great national teams. It will be beautiful to see. As to the organization, we're preparing in the Brazilian way, unfortunately.
PLAYBOY: What is this "Brazilian way"?
RONALDO: It's been a war to wrap up stadium building, infrastructure and urban mobility work. It's a shame, because the image conveyed is that of a country having a hard time to deliver what it promised. And all this work will remain as a legacy to the population. But, as a matter of fact, this happens all over the world. It's such a big, complex event, with millions of details to be controlled. Stadium building is very complex. If it rains, work must be stopped immediately, for two, three days in a row. Since Brazil is a democratic country, with many spheres of decision, these projects eventually take very long to be approved.
PLAYBOY: Speaking of legacies, what did you mean exactly by "World Cups aren't made with hospitals"?
RONALDO: There's been a lot of meanness in that, let alone an extremely biased edition against me. But one thing I've learned is, one shouldn't be ironic with such serious things. Whoever follows the government budget knows that no money at all has been taken from education or health. The original context of my speech was completely different (the statement was made at the presentation of Ronaldo as a member of the Local Organizing Committee, in 2011). At that time, everybody was happy with the World Cup in our country, thinking it would come as a solution to our problems. And this is not true, of course. I'd love if there were some health project capable of bringing such investments to our country as the World Cup is doing. Of course I'd support it.
PLAYBOY: But if World Cups aren't made with hospitals, couldn't they at least be made with less host cities?
RONALDO: That decision was up to CBF's president at the time, Ricardo Teixeira. Anyway, there's been good will in allowing the organizing country to choose. It's good to have 12 host cities. If they had been 8, only so many cities would receive the big investments for the Cup.
PLAYBOY: But the fact that CBF has made the choice isn't exactly great—after all, it's an entity with an image of corruption.
RONALDO: The big entities associated to soccer should develop the sport for the good, leaving out any kind of corruption. They should do social and educational programs. Soccer has great power in society, a power that's still underexplored. We should think about a way of organizing soccer more transparently, simply and seriously. It's a world passion, in which people find their moments of leisure, forget routine, have joy. Soccer moves people, and should be committed to credibility. Players have credibility. We have a life-history: we came from nothing, and got everything through soccer. People identify with this.
PLAYBOY: Ricardo Teixeira, the former CBF president, is charged with involvement in several corruption episodes. Do you believe these charges?
RONALDO: I haven't delved into the lawsuits against him, so I can't tell you. When you listen to people telling their stories, you end up thinking everyone is the nicest guy in the world but, truth is, things aren't like that. I'd like soccer to be a relief to people, something where they could find happiness, joy. I'd like to know it'is a pure world, which will be good entertainment to the kids.
PLAYBOY: He actually invited you to the Local Organizing Committee. Do you still have talks?
RONALDO: I've met him three or four months ago. We greeted each other, chatted a little. But it's a distant relationship.
PLAYBOY: Do you regret having accepted the invitation?
RONALDO: I don't regret it. When I got into this, there was great enthusiasm, even euforia all around. In 2007, when the World Cup was announced, Brazil celebrated as if it had won the tournament itself. And I accepted it because I really thought we could convey to the people the idea that the Cup was a great opportunity for business, for development, for enrichment in the most general sense. This is what I aimed at. Now we see lots of mistrust about the Cup, and not exactly because of it—it harks back a long way. Whoever thought that the World Cup would be the solution to all our problems was dead wrong.
PLAYBOY: The Cup has been offered to the country as a private event, with private investment, but there's been a huge public investment to make it stand. Why has this happened?
RONALDO: This came in a package of bad things about the Cup, but the fact is, we have only three public stadiums: Maracanã, Mané Garrincha and... Castelão. Yes, I think it's Castelão (in fact, there are four: Maracanã, in Rio de Janeiro, Mané Garrincha, in Brasília, Arena Amazônia, in Manaus and Arena Pantanal, in Cuiabá). The rest are private stadiums, funded by the Brazilian Development Bank. In other words, not public money. It's a loan. And we're going to have a big improvement in our soccer. We'll have stronger teams, the quality of the spectacle will improve. It's a long—term project. Teams will have their own stadiums, will organize, will be able to sell their tickets per year, will have their own stores, museums, visitation programs. And they'll charge for that. Real Madrid has a guided tour of Santiago Bernabéu where you can enter the pitch, visit the locker rooms, you're shown around the club, the trophy room etc. Just that brings in 14 million euros per year. It's a huge revenue. If you offer this to the fans, they'll do it, because they're passionate.
PLAYBOY: But there have been special favors to some teams, selected and privileged over others, no?
RONALDO: Maracanã has been opened for negotiation to all the teams in Rio. In São Paulo, São Paulo Football Club wasn't willing to do the renovations demanded by FIFA, they said they didn't want it and couldn't afford it. Palmeiras is building a smaller stadium, for 40 thousand people—not suitable for a World Cup opening match. Corinthians has been the only one to come up with a solution. They'd build their stadium anyway—the World Cup simply speeded up the process.
PLAYBOY: No politics involved then?
RONALDO: [Angered]. Why, there must have been, man, I don't know! I haven't taken part in it. I don't have the slightest idea.
PLAYBOY: You do hold an office in the Local Organizing Committee, will have a prominent position with Globo Television Network, where you'll work as a commentator in some matches, and you still have your own sports marketing agency. Isn't there a conflict of interests here?
RONALDO: Which conflict do you see? [Angered] I'm gonna comment on the players! In a strictly technical way. We don't take care of Neymar's career anymore.
PLAYBOY: Let's say you're commenting on the opening match between Brazil and Croatia and a beam falls within the stadium...
RONALDO: Damn, man, if it falls, it falls! Is it my fault? [Bothered]. No. Accidents can happen. We can't foresee these things.
PLAYBOY: But I'm not speaking of culprits here. Soccer-related things may influence the broadcast. For example, let's say the stadium is half-empty because of traffic problems. How will you deal with that?
RONALDO: I'd point it out naturally. I have the right and the freedom to make any comment I want on anything I want. I have my own personality, and nobody controls me. And if mobility around the stadium is a piece of shit, well, that's the government's fault! We've showed how it should be done. We've depended on governmental goodwill to deliver a functional city to the population watching the matches. The agreements for the World Cup General Act have been signed in 2007 and things are still being voted as we speak...
PLAYBOY: Have you already chosen your candidate for this year's election?
RONALDO: Although I do have an excellent relationship with former president Lula, from the Worker's Party. I'll vote for Aécio (the major opposition candidate). We've been friends for years, this is a guy I like and have total confidence in. I know he thinks a little like me. Aécio is my candidate, and I'll be ready to help him in his campaign. Brazil deserves change.
PLAYBOY: Which kinds of change?
RONALDO: We haven't evolved, we actually backtracked. The most important thing Brazil could do is investment in education. If you improve education, everything will improve automatically. And investment in education must be really strong, so our next generations may be different than what we see today. A well-educated person gets ill less frequently, will not kill in a traffic brawl. It's a matter of investing heavily in education so the next generations are more tolerant.
PLAYBOY: Do you have bodyguards?
RONALDO: I have a security team for myself, my family and my kids. This is something the government should provide: security. But we dont have it. I have the same fears as everyone else: robbery, kidnappings... Well, not so much kidnappings – after all, who would pay the ransom? [Laughs]. But, unfortunately, we live in a rather violent country, at a very complex moment, fraught with serious social problems. We have to invest in the next generations to make a different Brazil, ten, fifteen years from now.
PLAYBOY: One of the most vocal critics of the Brazilian World Cup is current congressman and former star player Romário [PSB-RJ]. Do you think about running for office someday, as he did?
RONALDO: No. I don't think about it.
PLAYBOY: You've been quite close to each other; you played together in 1994, and he even used to take you along in his escapades from the camp, as you told Playboy in your 2000 interview. Are you still on friendly terms?
RONALDO: Not now, because he keeps attacking me and challenging me for tickets I didn't promise (32 thousand tickets for low-income people with disabilities). CBF actually promised them. I don't work for CBF, have nothing to do with it, and with this whole business! Of course we need people who question, politicians that get more involved, who really show the population the good and the bad of it. But Romário has been concentrating exclusively on the negative aspects, criticizing a lot. I don't have the slightest idea of what he intends to accomplish by that, and I don't particularly care for what he thinks, says or speaks. I'm fighting for the World Cup to be really beautiful, a wonderful one, which the population can enjoy to the full. He has his own agenda, which I know nothing about.
PLAYBOY: But have you fallen out with each other? If he calls you now, would you answer the phone?
RONALDO: I don't know if he has my number, and I don't answer if I don't know who is calling. But I'd answer Romário. I don't have any problems in talking with him. I admire pretty much the cause he embraced in politics, which is helping disabled people. It's a good cause. He should focus more on it.
PLAYBOY: You said you don't want to become a politician, but what about a sports manager?
RONALDO: I want it badly. Soccer politics is something that will happen naturally to me. I want soccer to be an example, a really good thing to young people. I want to do social work in this sense, always towards sports, which is where I built my own life, earned respect, achieved everything.
PLAYBOY: Do you dream of CBF's presidency, for instance?
RONALDO: I don't have that kind of project. But, as a matter of fact, I could do so many nice things there, every now and then it even begins to interest me. But right now, or at least for the next five, ten years, I don't think about that. Not at all.
PLAYBOY: What nice things?
RONALDO: I know I could do a lot. Copy many foreign stuff which really works. Our soccer is still something of a toddler.
PLAYBOY: Would you change the tournament schedule, for example?
RONALDO: These decisions can never be made by one person. You have to call all the parties—athletes, managers, the television, the specialized press. There is lack of dialogue among the players. The Bom Senso movement is very important, lots of good ideas. [A movement recently started among Brazilian soccer players for better management of the sport] I'm friends with several of its members. Dida, Paulo André... We talk almost daily. I support Bom Senso. I think it's a totally positive movement. There've been a lot of important generations in past soccer history and nobody did a thing to improve our sport. Only, Bom Senso is a movement born to put up a fight—it should be more about uniting. Soccer players as a class are pretty much ignored. People should listen more to us, we could do interesting things. I don't know if Bom Senso will achieve something, but it's an excellent try.
PLAYBOY: How about coaching, any interest in trying your hand?
RONALDO: I don't feel the slightest calling to be a coach. I'll never be one. It's a very tough call. I wouldn't stand coaching 25 guys, each one of them doing one thing and saying another... I'd beat the crap out of those kids [Laughs].
PLAYBOY: Luiz Felipe Scolari, who coached the Brazilian team in 2002, has a reputation for being very stern. Did he beat the crap out of you?
RONALDO: Outside the pitch, he is a totally funny guy, a companion you can rely on. In the pitch he is way more annoying [Laughs]. Working with him was pretty hard, because he teased us about some things we players don't like being bothered about. For example: he used to make us train with the socks high up, with the shin pads, he wouldn't let us train with low socks. Kind of sergeant-like. But he made up for it with his behavior out of the pitch. The guy is really sensational, everybody likes him. An excellent coach, and a great group manager. It's so important to know how to manage 23 players, each one with his own way of thinking. And he does it very well.
PLAYBOY: Did he have any serious problem to coach that 2002 team?
RONALDO: [Thoughtfully] No, man, not at all...
PLAYBOY: But didn't this father's children ever quarrel?
RONALDO: Nope. There were even some so-called "Christ's athletes", other guys were single, but it really was a group, so it was easy to manage. Everybody had the same goal. Tolerance is very high within the national team.
PLAYBOY: Is he the best coach you've ever worked with?
RONALDO: Vicente del Bosque is very cool, Zagallo is very cool [One of the most respected brazilian coaches, who led the 1970 team], Scolari is very cool, Carlos Alberto Parreira... These are the great winners I had in my career.
PLAYBOY: Who was the least "cool"?
RONALDO: I've had some very difficult ones for God's sake! [Laughs]. I think the most difficult was the argentinian Héctor Cúper, in the Internazionale of Milan. Everybody knew about the problems I faced with him. We'd set on a plan and then things would happen differently. There was no loyalty. So I went to Massimo Moratti [Internazionale's president] and expressed in plain terms my unwillingness to work with him. We had an excellent relationship, but he preferred to keep the coach. Then I went to Real Madrid to start on a new stage. Real Madrid is a team I identified pretty much with. It's been the best combination between a soccer team and a city I had in my whole career. Madrid is a very cool city, very nice. The team's amazing. It's the biggest team in the world.
PLAYBOY: You had a very good experience in the 2002 national team, even winning Brazil's fifth World Cup, and a more frustrating one in 1998. In your first Playboy interview, in 2000, you said you didn't feel guilty for that defeat to France in the finals. Do you still see it the same way?
RONALDO: I see it in the exact same way. Maybe I could change this "I don't feel guilty" thing for "I feel guilty just for my part in it". No single player loses a match, the whole team loses it. And what happened to me was the exact opposite of fear. Anyone who has a convulsion and, hours later, steps into a World Cup final match is not afraid of dying. I might have suffered something even more serious in the pitch. It didn't happen. Few people said it then, but I've been the most courageous one there.
PLAYBOY: Did you take something in order to play in 1998?
RONALDO: I don't remember... I think I took a muscle relaxant. A convulsion is a very strong muscular spasm. I think five or six times stronger than a normal contraction. I took some muscle relaxant later on and, at the match, I was well.
PLAYBOY: Did you feel any pain as you played?
RONALDO: No pain.
PLAYBOY: Which was your role in the team? Did you have a lot of influence in the locker room, eventually more than the coach?
RONALDO: No, no... There was much respect at all times, everyone had his own space. The exchange of experience with the younger players inspired me—to see those kids on the rise and then myself, a little older, passing on experience to them. And it happens now too. The Brazilian team has found a very good formula to renew itself, this mix of more experienced players and younger ones.
PLAYBOY: Is Brazil under Scolari one of the favorites for this World Cup?
RONALDO: Brazil has an excellent team, with good prospects to win the Cup. It gave a strong exhibition to the world during the Confederations Cup, which was disputed at a very high level. We're well furnished with goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders and strikers. The team is well-balanced, and has great players in all sectors. For me, the favorites are, in this exact order, Brazil, Germany, Argentina and Spain.
PLAYBOY: Do you trust keeper Júlio Cesar?
RONALDO: I do. Júlio César is an excellent keeper. Even if I haven't been able to follow his game recently... Is it Canadian soccer he plays in? He is a wonderful keeper, and more experienced now.
PLAYBOY: Right-back Daniel Alves, one of the team's stars, has recently been at the center of a racist episode. Have you suffered similar things when you still played?
RONALDO: Unfortunately, yes. In Italy, in Spain. At the stadium. People imitating apes. Calling me ape. They've written all over my car: "monkey" This has existed in soccer for a long time, and it's not only soccer, it's society as a whole. It's sadly present all over the world. But I've never paid attention to it. It's such an act of ignorance, I've always preferred not to highlight it. There's always some idiot, or a bunch of morons wanting to spread disorder and do bad things. What we do expect is what happened in Salvador, where someone threw a cup on the pitch and other fans pointed out the guy to the police. We have to enforce our laws—to arrest people willing to riot.
PLAYBOY: You've already worked with coach Mano Menezes in Corinthians. Why do you think he didn't succeed with the Brazilian Team?
RONALDO: I've liked working with Mano. He is such a fantastic guy. Tite too. I've come to know him better, and I liked it. But the Brazilian team is something else. You need time to lead the players, to rub on your philosophy. There's no such thing as daily training. Normally, you'll meet once, train for a couple of days, play on the third and go back to your home. Everyone goes his own way. All national teams face this problem. It's hard to create a group under these conditions—a real challenge.
PLAYBOY: Any hard feelings regarding Corinthians fans after the match against Tolima? [in2011, Corinthians was eliminated in the qualifying stage to the Libertadores Cup by the Colombian Tolima. This was Ronaldo's last match for Corinthians]
RONALDO: None at all! I have a very good relationship with the fans. I've just received an homage by Gaviões da Fiel at the São Paulo carnival [the main organized ultras group of Corinthians fans, which is also a samba school]. It was wonderful. A really fantastic emotion. Beautiful.
PLAYBOY: But just after the match against Tolima, you announced your retirement. What exactly happened there?
RONALDO: The way it happened, it was bad. Very bad. [Forcefully] But man, it was a sports defeat, just like so many others I had in my career. Soccer plays so much with passion that the fans forget it's just a sport. No team will win for ever. Also, that was not the reason I stopped playing. I was feeling so much pain, couldn't bear spending whole days in physical therapy anymore—injections, anti-inflammatories, training and playing in pain.
PLAYBOY: Has someone overshadowed you as a player?
RONALDO: I don't want to sound nostalgic here, but my times were way more competitive. In some seasons five or six of us would compete to see who was World Player of the Year. Rivaldo, Ronaldinho Gaúcho, Zidane, Figo. All of them won the Ballon d'Or in my times. Rooney. Michael Owen won the Ballon d'Or too [in this case, an award given by France Football magazine, in 2001].
PLAYBOY: But which of these did you like best?
RONALDO: Zidane to me is the best I've ever seen, the best I've ever played and trained along. He was really sensational. At times he got very angry in the pitch, because of some violent move, and then lost his head. This happened a lot in training too. But it was peculiar to him. Zidane was, hands down, the best player I've seen in action.
PLAYBOY: Who is the best player of the world today?
RONALDO: Cristiano Ronaldo. The Ballon d'Or is a very strong poll. Look: all the national team coaches vote in it, all the teams' captains, one specialized journalist from every country. I do support and respect this poll. But Messi is also an excellent player. He has won the Ballon d'Or four times in a row. It's a tough fight.
PLAYBOY: If you had both before you, and could hire just one—let's say you're the president of Corinthians, for instance—who would you take? [Laughs].
RONALDO: Wow! You've already made me president of CBF, now it's Corinthians, you've made a politician... Well, I'd hire Messi... But Cristiano Ronaldo too... [Laughs]. Ah! I'd close my eyes and pick anyone of them, blindly.
PLAYBOY: What about Neymar? How long until he gets to run for a Ballon d'Or?
RONALDO: Very soon. This year perhaps, if God helps. If he finishes the World Cup as best player and top scorer, and if Brazil wins, well, anybody else can win the Champion's League with 200 goals and, no way, at the end of the year the Ballon d'Or is Neymar's.
PLAYBOY: Between Cristiano, Messi and Neymar, whose style is closer to yours?
RONALDO: None's. They play more to the sides, showing up to strike at the front. I was more of a center-forward. The three of them have speed, they're very fast. But when it comes to strength, Cristiano Ronaldo is more like me—even because of his size.
PLAYBOY: Edmundo has been our May interviewee and, among other things, he said he had been a better player than you...
RONALDO: [Opening his arms in disbelief] Playing what? What do you want me to say? I don't have to compare myself to Edmundo. But it's his opinion, I'll have to respect it.
PLAYBOY: In spite of that, you and Edmundo have a good relationship. There's even a video that became infamous: at Marcos' farewell, in December 2012 [the farewell-match to a well-known goalkeeper] you appear gesturing to him about "lighting up some"...
RONALDO: [Laughs] Look, we were talking about another guy, commenting on what he must be doing to avoid the match. But I do smoke cigarettes. One pack a day. It's an addiction I'd like to stop with, I've even tried last year. I've managed for five whole months. Then I did some therapy, and the shrink began to tell me: "You're making too many decisions at a time: you've decided to get leaner, stop smoking... It must be one thing at a time." And then I eventually came back to it... It must have been the shrink's fault. Son of a bitch! [Laughs].
PLAYBOY: Have you ever done pot?
RONALDO: After my sports career, when I no longer had obligations about drug tests. But not before—even because I felt no need to.
PLAYBOY: Does it make you hungry?
RONALDO: It's been a problem when I tried it. I wanted to eat the table, man...
PLAYBOY: Have you tried something other than pot?
RONALDO: Not that I remember. Just whisky, vodka...
PLAYBOY: What do you like to drink?
RONALDO: Beer. Beer and vodka with energy drink.
PLAYBOY: You're a night guy. When you were at Corinthians, your visits to the Pink Elephant, one of the most egregiously expensive clubs in São Paulo became famous...
RONALDO: I went there just once! A woman threw herself at my neck and there you had it. I go out much less frequently than any guy my age. I like it, but it's very, very occasional.
PLAYBOY: Do you usually go wild when you go out?
RONALDO: No, but I don't avoid anything either. If I'm at some place I feel well, happy, I reserve myself this right of enjoying things. It's not something I worry about. Not something I do to show off either. I was never into things like getting the most expensive champagne, lights etc. This has always bothered me. The good thing about being famous is that people in clubs offer you drinks. So, some random guy comes to you opening a bottle of champagne. My bills end up pretty cheap actually.
PLAYBOY: Have you ever been epically turned down after becoming Ronaldo?
RONALDO: A couple of times. With some famous women it didn't work. I haven't been good enough to conquer them.
PLAYBOY: What's your record in one night?
RONALDO: I'm cool, man! Sometimes people don' t believe it, but I'm a romantic. My thing has never been quantity, or showing off. I've always tried to fall in love and live relationships intensely.
PLAYBOY: In the 2000 interview, you also said you had never lost an erection. 14 years later, has it happened?
PLAYBOY: But what about Viagra, have you tried it?
RONALDO: Some years ago I tried it to see what it was like. Very uncomfortable. Clogs your nose, makes it bleed. I didn't like it at all. No big difference in rigidity either... But it must be better nowadays, huh? Although Paula, [Ronaldo's bride] would simply kill me if I should take this kind of stuff.
PLAYBOY: At that interview, you also said you were afraid of the dark...
RONALDO: I'm still so! When I'm alone I sleep with the TV on... I'd sleep with my eyes wide open if I could [Laughs].
PLAYBOY: Do you still pee in your bed?
RONALDO: Oh! That I haven't done in a long time! [Laughs]. I can't explain why, but I used to wet my bed a lot.
PLAYBOY: We've brought you a present, the Playboy 35 Year Photo Book. Just roughly, how many have you conquered in this book?
RONALDO: In this book! [Laughs]. Fuck, man! You're bringing some heavy artillery on me. [Takes the book and begins to leaf through it] Let me take a look and count... Who's this one here? I can't see who it is, I just can't tell you if I have or have not.. This book covers 35 years, huh? It's a lot. The question is, how many covers have I?... Is that what you wanna know? Fuck, man. Monique Evans? Well, I'll have to fast forward a bit... [Puts on his glasses] But I won't name names, no... Perhaps one cover with two girls, huh? [Laughs]. Man, I can't see a thing. No way to do it. There's a lot of girls here. I just can't answer it. Again, there are girls who modeled for you after dating me. We'd have to settle on the criteria first. And there's more, I'm engaged now. If I tell you that, I'm sleeping in the couch tonight. If I keep talking about this shit, my wife will be pissed off. So, I'd better not even begin. Better to leave it alone.
PLAYBOY: Have you had a good relationship with Playboy?
RONALDO: Man, I've had an excellent relationship with Playboy when I was younger. [Laughs]
PLAYBOY: Who was the great cover of your childhood?
RONALDO: Why, I don't remember... Even because, when I was young, this was something distant. Any cover was good. I'd buy it secretly, very young, at ten or twelve.
PLAYBOY: Even if you won't tell us how many covers your resume has, some of your relationships with famous and desired women are widely known. With Daniela Cicarelli, for instance, why has it ended?
RONALDO: For no particular reason. We just came to the conclusion it was not what both wanted. We used to argue a lot, and before it got worse we decided we should follow our separate ways.
PLAYBOY: Apparently a lot of people was against this marriage, even Rodrigo Paiva, who's been your press agent for many years...
RONALDO: It's true. But this was none of his business. He is my friend, and used to work for me. After that, he tried to cut a good figure with the press, saying he had tried to let them into the ceremony [In Ronaldo's marriage with Cicarelli at Chantilly Castle, France, no press was allowed] Each one should have respect for the other's space. He overstepped into my space, and we stopped working together. But naturally enough—no quarrels, no arguments, no scandal. Nothing of the sort. We've always been very close. Nowadays, we talk to each other, but not as closely.
PLAYBOY: Have you ever been cheated?
RONALDO: Not as far as I know... But probably I have, huh? I don't have this kind of stats. Regarding people I dated, nothing came to my ears so far. But the real problem is to discover something like that about someone you want to live with. I haven't had that experience. I hope I won't.
PLAYBOY: Are you jealous of former girlfriends?
RONALDO: Not at all! Zero! I'm not nearly jealous of any ex-girlfriend. It's a thing of the past, over and done. I'm totally happy with my relationship with Paula. There's no room for ex-girlfriends in my mind.
PLAYBOY: And why has your marriage with Milene Dominguez, your first son's mother, ended?
RONALDO: We were young, she wanted a different life, and I didn't want to be married at my age then. I wanted a different life too.
PLAYBOY: Do you regret that marriage?
RONALDO: No. I don't regret anything. I've learned a lot with the things I did and with my mistakes. It was good to learn that way. We get it wrong a lot more when we're young, don't we?
PLAYBOY: Do your children like soccer?
RONALDO: Yes, they do. Ronald, most of them. Alex is more into videogames [Laughs]
PLAYBOY: Which team does Ronald support?
RONALDO: Corinthians—just like his mother. He's been influenced from an early age, you know.
PLAYBOY: But have you put on some pressure to make him a Flamengo fan? [Ronaldo himself supports Flamengo, the most popular team in Rio]
RONALDO: I can't deny Flamengo is in my heart, but nowadays I'm more of a Corinthians fan. Besides, I've taken Ronald only a couple of times to a stadium. In Europe we went a little more often, when he was a little kid. But Ronald is very busy now. At 14 he has more appointments than myself! He does a thousand things: he is a DJ, he's into electronic music, pop too, and he also produces. We travel a lot together—me, himself and Paula; and they spend hours talking about music. He also trains jiu-jitsu to boot. And plays soccer. He studies hard, that boy.
PLAYBOY: You haven't played for Flamengo in your career. Any hard feelings about that?
RONALDO: I'd have liked to play for Flamengo, but I didn't have the chance. I think Flamengo fans may be the ones with hard feelings towards Flamengo's directors at the time [the team was directed by Marcio Braga then]. I was there, I've always been an outspoken Flamengo fan, and no invitation was forthcoming. And I kept training in Flamengo for three whole months, waiting for a proposal. Right there! Practically living with them. But I'm not playing where I'm not invited to, where I'm not called in. And then, all of a sudden, there appears Corinthians with an invitation. And I decided to accept it.
PLAYBOY: How is your relationship with Michele Umezu, Alex's mother?
RONALDO: A very polite one. We just talk about Alex.
PLAYBOY: How have you met?
RONALDO: It was a one-night-stand, just that.
PLAYBOY: How was it when you found out about him?
RONALDO: I got to know about him three years afterwards. We kept the lawyers on the case until the tests came out. Then it turned into a wonderful source of joy. Alex is a fantastic son, a very well-educated boy, a very dear child to me. He's yet another present God has sent me.
PLAYBOY: Did you feel any fear when you found out about Alex?
RONALDO: Fear of what? Children are the best thing in the world for me. Alex only brought joy to my life. My greatest pleasure is being around my children, with children in general as a matter of fact. Children are my greatest joy. The world may be falling apart, if my children are with me, if I'm near to them, I'll be the happpiest person in the planet. And I'm crazy to have two more.
PLAYBOY: But you've done a vasectomy, haven't you?
RONALDO: After my last daughter I did it, but I have something in store...
PLAYBOY: Have you set a date to put your plan into practice?
RONALDO: We're studying it. We want to marry, do everthing nice and properly, but we haven't found any dates yet. Probably something for next year.
PLAYBOY: EXAME magazine made an estimate of your net worth in 2004 and it amounted to about 360 million reais. [about 160 US$ million today] Has it grown much by now? How many generations of Nazários can you comfortably provide for?
RONALDO: [Laughs]. Man, I don't know. Do you want me to comment on an estimate I can't tell you if it's true? That's easy. Has it grown? Of course. Just by staying put on the bank, with the interest and all, it would. Everything I've conquered, everything I fought for in my life, I want the same thing for my children. The education I'm giving them is to conquer, to produce. I won't provide for them to bask in it. I'm gonna invest my money in their education, and on what they choose in order to be great.
PLAYBOY: What exactly happened on April, 26, 2008?
RONALDO: What day is that?
PLAYBOY: The transvestites.
RONALDO: Damn, I've talked so many times about this shit, haven't I? This is it: I was at a given place, going back home, somewhat drunk, and there happened this mess. A huge misunderstanding. A huge mistake. Unconsummated, but a mistake nevertheless.
PLAYBOY: Nothing at all has actually happened?
PLAYBOY: Do your friends tease you much about this story?
RONALDO: No. It was a difficult moment, which affected my whole family a lot. I've already suffered more than I deserved for having made this mistake.
PLAYBOY: There was a joke running at the time which went: "Well, a guy like Ronaldo, who had it with all the women he wanted—he must have thought, 'you know, I'm gonna get a transvestite to see how it is." Nowadays, is it possible to laugh at these things?
RONALDO: Now I do laugh. Still regretting, but I do.
This article originally appeared in Playboy Brazil.
Photography by Marcelo Naddeo