98: What hit Ronaldo before the final?

Nobody really knows what happened with Ronaldo before the 1998 World Cup final. But that hasn'™t stopped the wild speculation, from conspiracy theorists to shock-jocks, politicians and team-mates...

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Edmundo's sponsor allegations

Edmundo, who was on the team sheet before Ronaldo'™s return to the line-up, claimed to have witnessed his fellow striker'™s "˜fit" after a cry for help from Roberto Carlos. After this, he claims, Ronaldo took a nap before being whisked off to hospital for tests.

Benched, 'The Animal' later suggested that Nike influenced Ronaldo'™s return to the team. "Nike'™s people were there 24 hours a day, as if they were member of the technical staff. It'™s a huge power. That'™s all I can say."

The mystery medic

Some players claim that team doctor Lidio Toledo started weeping when he arrived at Ronaldo's room. Toledo denies this, claiming Ronaldo was conscious when he reached him, but breathing heavily and with saliva around this mouth.

The player was then allegedly sent to hospital for neurological tests, which everyone thought would rule him out of playing. The tests came back normal and Toledo, another medic, coach Mario Zagallo and a determined Ronaldo decided the between them that he was fit enough to play.

The nervous breakdown theory

One of Brazil'™s main newspapers claimed that Ronaldo had a nervous breakdown during the cup. Folha de S Paulo wrote that Ronaldo was displaying signs of depression a week before the final, smashing a bike against a wall. On the eve of the game, Ronnie had a "œnervous crisis". Toledo entered the room and left crying, but Ronaldo wasn'™t medicated because of the risk of doping.

They claim that technical co-ordinator Zico opposed fielding Ronaldo, and that the silent departure of the team from the hotel (as opposed to the usual samba party), and absence of a warm-up, indicated a player feud. One group, allegedly led by Dunga, backed Ronaldo's presence, while another, said to be led by Leonardo, opposed it.

"Football, eh?"

The FIFA conspiracy

Now for the really barmy theories: an e-mail allegedly written by a source at TV Globo states that Brazil "sold" the World Cup to FIFA for a cash fee of $23 million.

The idea was to let France win to please new FIFA present Sepp Blatter, and help the French people forget their social problems. FIFA then promised Brazil that the Selecao would have its path "œsoftened" to win the 2002 World Cup in Korea and Japan, and that Brazil would host a World Cup in the next decade. Hang on a minute...

The fateful injection

A few years after the fiasco, motor-mouthed pundit Jorge Kajuru put forward another theory: Ronaldo had freaked out after having an allergic reaction to an injection to his knee from doctor Toledo. People who believed Kajuru at the time wouldn'™t admit it: after all, the crackpot pundit regularly rants on TV about people "œtaking it up the arse". Crikey.

The sex scandal

According to rock-solid sources (street corner whispers, pub hearsay, etc) Ronaldo'™s breakdown was prompted by an affair between his then-girlfriend at the time, Susana Werner –“ now the wife of Selecao keeper Julio Cesar – and a Brazilian TV journalist. 

The Nike ultimatum

In 2000, a Parliamentary Inquiry Commission was set up to investigate the contract between the Brazilian FA and Nike. One of the initial areas of investigation was to be the influence of the Oregon giant on Ronaldo'™s final appearance. But the whole matter was fudged. One politician blandly asked Ronaldo who was responsible for marking Zidane. "Will it really help?" replied the striker. The commission closed without finding any answers.