One of the biggest conspiracies in football is centred around the 1998 World Cup final between France and Brazil. This game was hyped up to be an all time classic, with some of the worlds best players starting for both teams.
However, despite all the hype, this game was a massive let down as the hosts France destroyed Brazil 3-0. Questions began to be asked about Ronaldo as he looked a shadow of his former self throughout the game.
Ronaldo’s impressive career accolades
Before the 1998 World Cup, Ronaldo was already one of the best players in the world. He had already accomplished a lot in his career.
For Brazil, he won both the Confederations Cup & the Copa América. And at club level Ronaldo won the Cup Winners Cup with Barcelona as well as the UEFA Cup and Ballon d’Or with Inter.
If this was not already impressive enough, his goal record stood at a frightening 179 goals in 200 games.
At only 21, Ronaldo was already the best player in the world and was on track to becoming one of the greatest of all time with only the likes of Pelé being able to rival his numbers at such a young age.
Even though Ronaldo already had a World Cup winners medal on his CV, his contribution was minor as in 1994 he didn’t play a single game. In 1998 the narrative was different. He now had more experience and more responsibility to lead his team to victory.
However, there was one last man that could stop Ronaldo from winning the World Cup. And that man was Zinedine Zidane.
Zidane’s Rivalry with Ronaldo
Alongside being the two best players on the planet, Zidane and Ronaldo were already the faces of Serie A. This added even more hype to the World Cup final.
On top of that, a rivalry already existed between the players as Juventus had just beaten Inter Milan to the Serie A title in the 1997/98 season.
Although France had some great players the general consensus was that Brazil were too good and were easily going to win the final. Ronaldo had been unplayable throughout the entire tournament managing to get 4 goals and 3 assists.
The French defenders even discussed how to stop Ronaldo attempting to predict the way he was going to dribble. They even described his dribbling as ‘magic’.
But to their luck, Ronaldo wasn’t his usual self. During the game, the French defenders didn’t struggle against him at all.
Football fans were disappointed at the final and began raising eyebrows at Ronaldo’s performance as they knew something must’ve been wrong…
The build up to the final
The drama started when Roberto Carlos allegedly walked in on Ronaldo breaking down. He told him that all the pressure of leading his nation to successive triumphs had finally got to him.
To make matters even worse after lunch, on the way back to his hotel room, Ronaldo began to convulse uncontrollably. Eventually foaming at the mouth and even shaking nonstop.
Brazilian team mates rushed to help prevent Ronaldo from swallowing his tongue. And there were even reports of some of the players shouting ‘He is dead.’
But after a while he woke up normally telling his team mates to leave him be so he could get some rest.
Ronaldo remembered nothing about what had just happened and was informed by the Brazilian staff a while after the events had occurred.
The staff took Ronaldo to the hospital to run some tests to get to the bottom of what was wrong with him. However, they couldn’t find anything and this still remains a mystery to this day.
For this reason, the Brazilian coach, Mario Zagallo, left Ronaldo out of the starting lineup. But 20 minutes later something mysteriously changed the managers mind as Ronaldo was reintroduced into the starting eleven.
What happened to Ronaldo?
Despite him being passed fit to start, it was obvious to fans that something was seriously wrong. Ronaldo looked extremely sluggish on the pitch. As if he was fighting discomfort.
On the other hand, Zidane scored two goals in the final to help France lift their first ever World Cup trophy. This led to Zidane beating Ronaldo to the 1998 Balon d’Or.
After the final all the fans wanted clarity on what could have possibly been wrong with Ronaldo. How could he be back in the starting lineup after such a serious incident the previous day?
Could he have been poisoned? After all the World Cup was hosted by France meaning the Brazilian team were staying in a French hotel.
After all the speculation, there were three conclusions that made the most sense for all football fans worldwide.
Conspiracy 1: Ronaldo was hiding a medical condition
Since Ronaldo had already been involved in the 1994 World Cup winning squad, fans believed that he should be used to this sort of occasion.
For this reason, conspiracy theorists believe Ronaldo must’ve been hiding an injury and this whole situation was a cover up for it. Since he had a pre-existing minor injury against Morocco, they believed the pain killers he was taking throughout the tournament had made things worse causing him to have a seizure.
However, this theory is already groundless as there’s no actual supporting evidence.
Conspiracy 2: Brazil were bribed to lose the match on purpose
According to popular sports outlets, Brazil were allegedly offered £15 million to lose the final. In exchange, they would gain the right to host the World Cup in the near future. And that they would also be gifted a favourable group in the 2002 World Cup.
Suspiciously, in the 2002 World Cup, which they went on to win, Brazil had Turkey, Costa Rica and China in their group. And on top of that, they hosted the 2014 World Cup.
Given FIFA’s dodgy reputation conspiracy theorists have grounds to believe this theory to be true.
Conspiracy 3: Nike forced Ronaldo to play in the World Cup final
Onto the most likely theory involving Nike.
Nike sealed a deal with the Brazilian federation to become the main sponsor of the team for £100 million. As a result of this, the Brazil national team and Ronaldo were at the forefront of many of the Nike football adverts.
According to the independent Brazil even had to play their strongest team for friendlies to generate more revenue for Nike.
Additionally, the World Cup final was the battle of the two biggest brands. With Nike sponsoring Brazil and Ronaldo & Adidas sponsoring France and Zidane.
With Ronaldo not playing in the final the damage it would cause would have been a massive financial hit for Nike.
To stop this from happening, the head of the Brazilian federation, Ricardo Teixeira, allegedly went into the Brazil dressing room to tell the coach to start Ronaldo despite his medical issues.
This theory completely aligns with the sequence of the events leading up to the final.
But to make this theory even more believable, Edmundo, the striker who was supposed to replace Ronaldo in the lineup, went on record speaking about the Nike incident. He said that it was all true. And added that Ronaldo had to play every match in the World Cup because of Nike.
Edmundo had to publicly apologise when this was leaked and Nike had to come out and deny the allegations.
Ronaldo himself has spoken about the incident. He claims that he begged the Brazilian coach to let him play in the final.
However, this is also really questionable as Nike were already paying Ronaldo millions and I don’t think he’d try to risk losing his money by confessing the truth.
Let us know in the comments what you think was most likely to have happened.
Read more WNR Wednesday content here.