This fantastic pocket-sized Brazilian striker was named FIFA World Player of the Year in 1994 after a string of superb performances at the 1994 FIFA World Cup USA™, where he was named player of the tournament. Romario also had probably his best season in club football at Barcelona (where he finished leading scorer in the Spanish Liga with 30 goals to his name). He has confessed that he sometimes runs less than the match referee, and says the secret behind his success is quite straightforward: "If I don't go out the night before I can't score the day after". Which all adds up to quite a few nights out when you consider he has hit the net more than 600 times in his career…
Longevity has been a feature of Romario's career. He hit the target 74 times in 2000 in the Brazilian League and finished top-scorer last year at the ripe old age of 36. Funny to think that he only weighed in at 1.8 kilos at birth, and suffered subsequent respiratory problems -because he has certainly found his second wind since! Romario nearly made it to the FIFA World Cup last year, missing out on selection for the Seleçao at the final hurdle.
1995, George Weah
Weah was quite simply the African player of the century. 1995 was a huge year for "Mister" George, as he was named African, European and World Footballer of the Year! This artful striker, who first played in Europe under Arsène Wenger at Monaco, became the first non-European to win the coveted Ballon D'Or and the first African to be named FIFA World Player of the Year. He first came to the world's attention as a Paris-SG player during the1994/1995 Champions League season when he found the net eight times in nine games, including a never-to-be-forgotten dribble through the Bayern Munich defence and fierce drive into the top corner of the net.
It so happened the mighty AC Milan side watched that game on video on the way home from an away fixture in Salzburg - and they were so impressed they kept playing back the tape to see how he did it! So it was no surprise when George joined the team from Lombardy the following year, replacing his idol, the injury-plagued Marco van Basten.
"Everybody would love to be Van Basten", he was quoted as saying, but far from being daunted by the task of filling the great man's boots, Weah went about earning his place in the hearts of the rossoneri fans. He scored a hatful of fantastic goals, perhaps most memorably against Verona in one of his first games for the club, when he dribbled the length of the field before beating the keeper! George won two Italian championships and scored 34 goals in his 4 seasons in Milan.
1996 and 1997, Ronaldo
The "Fenomeno" has been collecting plaudits, trophies and goals since the mid-90's. Back home in Brazil, they are quick to remind you that Ronaldo was only 17 when he picked up his first FIFA World Cup winner's medal at USA 94 - the same age as a young prodigy named Pele back in 1958. For the average superstitious Brazilian fan this was an obvious sign of things to come, and Ronaldo has certainly continued to deliver on his early promise. His first FIFA Player of the Year award came in 1996 when he had just turned 20, and to this day he is the youngest player to have won the trophy. He is also the only player to have won the award two years running. His 1996 crown came at the end of a season at Barcelona that resembled something of a footballing fairy tale. Following in the footsteps of Romario, he had been transferred to the Catalan club from PSV Eindhoven after two seasons at the Dutch club, where he scored 42 goals.
That one season at Barça saw him take the football world by storm. The socios still talk of a mesmerising run against Compostela, rounded off with a brilliant finish that left the keeper for dead. He hit 34 goals that year, carrying off the European Golden Boot in the process. In 1997, he became the youngest-ever European Footballer of the Year, and FIFA Player of the Year for a second time. Author Manuel Vasquez Montalban described him as "an exceptionally powerful athlete, with the constitution of a boxer and the feet of Fred Astaire". Following his transfer to Inter Milan, though, he suffered two career-threatening knee injuries that kept him out of the game for nearly two years. But Ronaldo is also made of resolute stuff, and he burst back into the spotlight in the most spectacular fashion possible in Korea and Japan. His eight goals in Asia represent the highest goal-tally in a FIFA World Cup since 1970.