Ronaldo, Neymar, Man Utd: 13 crazy football conspiracy theories

You can’t go wrong with a good conspiracy theory.

A situation that everyone took for face value, just for someone, somewhere to sow a seed of doubt with a wild claim and change the entire status quo.

Like, for example, the suggestion that Nike forced Ronaldo to play in the 1998 World Cup final. Once we tell you more about that one you’ll never think about France ’98 the same way.

We’ve gathered some of the craziest football conspiracy theories around from articles, Reddit threads, Twitter debates and more, so you can lose yourself in the idea that the football you thought you know doesn’t really exist.

‘Nike forced Ronaldo to play in the 1998 World Cup final’

Ronaldo was expected to miss the 1998 World Cup final between Brazil and France. He was left out of the squad for the Paris final after suffering a seizure the night before.

However, there was a shock when R9’s name was there in the starting line-up.

Nike sponsored the Brazil forward and it’s been suggested that they forced him to play – although he couldn’t prevent France winning 3-0.

‘South Korea vs Spain in the 2002 World Cup was fixed’

South Korea beat Italy and Spain back-to-back en route to the semi-finals of the 2002 World Cup.

They benefitted from a number of questionable refereeing decisions in their penalty-shootout win over Spain and the integrity of the match officials has been doubted by some ever since.

‘Steven Gerrard missed a penalty on purpose to get Roy Hodgson sacked’

Would the captain of Liverpool really miss a penalty on purpose just to get his manager sacked?

Some have raised the question after Gerrard missed from 12 yards against Blackburn in 2011.

The thought is that Gerrard placed his hand over the Liverpool crest to suggest he was only doing what was best for the Reds…

‘Neymar wasn’t really injured at the 2014 World Cup’

Neymar was denied a shot at World Cup glory in 2014 when he injured his back in the quarter-finals, suffering a lumbar vertebrae fracture.

Yet some pointed to a video of the Brazilian apparently walking around his house pain-free as proof that he was, for one reason or another, faking it.

‘Adidas deliberately make wonky World Cup balls’

Goalkeepers have complained about balls at the World Cup more than once, with the 2010 Jabulani ball irking many.

England goalkeeper David James said: “The ball is dreadful. It’s horrible, but it’s horrible for everyone.”

Meanwhile, Brazilian Julio Cesar said it was “like a ball you’d buy in a supermarket.”

Is this done on purpose, to inflate the number of goals scored at the tournament or to increase sales of the balls? Who knows.

‘Match of the Day commentators know what’s going to happen’

MOTD host Gary Lineker has refuted this theory before, but it still continues to do the rounds.

The accusation is that commentators actually do the voice work in a studio after the match has already taken place, so they know exactly what’s going to happen. 

Indeed, it’s rather eerie whenever they mention a defender going up for a corner and they go on to score…

‘England & Germany worked together to get Uruguay and Argentina out of ’66 World Cup’

In 1966, the World Cup quarter-finals featured England vs Argentina and Germany vs Uruguay.

Apparently, Uruguay and Argentina representatives were invited to London for the referee selection but when they arrived, it had already taken place – attended only by England and Germany officials.

A German ref was chosen for England vs Argentina and an English one for Germany vs Uruguay. There was controversy in both games, with Argentina’s Antonio Rattin being sent off for “verbal excess” and two Uruguayan players receiving red cards as well.

‘Nike paid Vitaly Zdorovetskiy to run onto the pitch at 2014 World Cup final’

Another conspiracy theory involving Nike.

With both finalists, Germany and Argentina, being Adidas-sponsored, the claim goes that Nike wanted in on the act by paying YouTube personality Vitaly Zdorovetskiy to run onto the pitch wearing Nike boots and socks.

Nike were sponsors of Brazil, the host-nation, so it’s thought they would have had no problems helping Vitaly get onto the Maracana turf.

‘Champions League draws are rigged’

This theory surfaces every year.

Previously it’s been suggested that UEFA plan each fixture ahead of the draw and use hot balls to ensure the outcome is as they plan it.

Perhaps they’re even more brazen with the draws now though, with last December’s calamitous ceremony seeing the last-16 draw redone after Man United were paired with Villarreal despite both coming out of the same group.

‘2022 World Cup venue was influenced by oil and money’

Qatar was selected to host the 2022 tournaments back in 2010, with the event requiring the construction of new stadiums across the country.

There have been allegations of corruption with regards to how Qatar won hosting rights, and two FIFA executive committee members were even suspended ahead of the vote in relation to corruption allegations.

’Lasagna-gate stopped Spurs overtaking Arsenal in 2006’

Spurs simply needed to match Arsenal’s result on the final day of the 2005/06 season to finish in fourth place.

However, the night before their game against West Ham United a number of key players fell ill after eating lasagna at the team hotel. 

Spurs ended up losing 2-1 to West Ham and relinquished their Champions League spot to their biggest rivals. Was the chef at the hotel a Gooner?

‘Euro 2020 was set up to make English win it’

England benefitted from playing six of their seven games at Euro 2020 at Wembley; no other team in the tournament played more than three games in its home country.

Spanish and Italian media also floated the idea that the officiating was rigged to help England win it.

“It has been totally conditioned for England,” said a Spaniard on El Chiringuito.

Meanwhile, Italian outlet Gazzetta hello Sport said the penalty England received against Denmark in the semi-final “confirms the suspicions of a return to favour” by UEFA to prime minister Boris Johnson for his role in stopping the European Super League. 

Howard Webb helped Man United win

We’ll let Ryan Babel, fined £10,000 at the time, take this one…

Webb was frequently accused of assisting Man United. It was a sad day for the club when he retired in 2014…

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