12 July 1998, Paris.
It’s the biggest sporting event in the world with hosts France up against tournament favourites Brazil in the World Cup Final.
In a squad full of stars, Ronaldo is Brazil’s brightest.
With a potential 120 minutes at his disposal, the skilled No9 has his eye on the Golden Boot.
And yet, against all reasoning, his name was absent from the team sheet.
Immediately there were wild speculations as the media desperately tried to find out why the world’s best player was set to miss the biggest game of his career.
There were rumours his knee injury has worsened and, more worryingly, that he’d suffered a seizure.
Then all of a sudden, a new team sheet appeared with Ronaldo’s name in Edmundo’s place.
Ronaldo underperformed as France won 3-0, the biggest defeat in Brazil’s World Cup history at the time.
What really happened that day is perhaps the most fascinating story in football history.
Some time after lunch on the day of the final, Ronaldo suffered a severe fit while at the team hotel.
His whole body convulsed violently and he began frothing at the mouth.
Roberto Carlos screamed for help which brought team-mates Edmundo and Cesar Sampaio scrambling into the room.
The latter administered first aid and dislodged Ronaldo’s tongue to prevent him from swallowing it.
Ronaldo then fell asleep as the medical team arrived.
Team doctor Lidio Toledo supposedly wept as he left the room, believing the situation to be potentially serious.
When Ronaldo woke up none of his team-mates told him what had happened.
However, after it became obvious that he was subdued and troubled by something, Toledo revealed all before whisking him away for neurological and cardiac tests.
When the tests came back all clear, Ronaldo was reinstated into the team at the last moment despite opposition from some team-mates.
The main conspiracy theory is that sponsors Nike forced Ronaldo’s inclusion.
There had long been a feeling that the sportswear company’s £105m sponsorship deal had earned them too much control over the team’s management.
Some even claimed that there was a clause in the contract and that Brazil were obligated to play Ronaldo, one of Nike’s biggest stars, as long as he was ruled fit.
Another theory is that the episode was a result of intense stress or a medical condition that Ronaldo had kept a secret all his life.
Roberto Carlos said that during the latter stages of the tournament he frequently caught his roommate sobbing.
During the 2002 World Cup, Pele said that Ronaldo’s form was ‘more about his mind than his body’ which many took as a reference to the final in Paris.
Others say Ronaldo reacted badly to an injection in his knee.
Some even speculated that he had somehow been poisoned.
Rumours also circulated that it was Ronaldo’s job to mark Zinedine Zidane at corners (both of Zizou’s goals in the final came from corners) and that his situation was part of a bigger fix involving FIFA and an £18million bribe.
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This is by far the most far-fetched theory although it included the notion that steps would be taken to ease Brazil’s 2002 World Cup campaign, which they won, and that they would be made hosts within a decade, which of course they were.
Ronaldo was even asked about this at a congressional inquiry into the matter, but said he could not remember if he was tasked with marking Zidane.
He added that whoever was supposed to be Zidane’s marker had not done a very good job.
To this day the full details of the 1998 World Cup final remain unclear.
It’s possible only the man himself knows what really occurred.
Still, a player of his calibre was always going to get a another chance at greatness on the grandest stage.
And boy did he take it.