Messi, Ronaldo and Gerrard: What are the biggest conspiracy theories in football history?

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We all love a conspiracy theory, don’t we?

At the start of the year, football fans were listing the craziest conspiracy theories in football in an epic Reddit thread.

The thread read: “To pass the time during this COVID-19 pandemic lets discuss some wacky conspiracy theory that you believe (in delusion, perhaps) is actually true.”

Hundreds of replies later, and we discovered some pretty wild theories. FourFourTwo magazine also produced a list of 27 of the ‘craziest football conspiracy theories’ which we have combined with the best ones from the Reddit thread.

Check them out:

“Nike forced Ronaldo to play the 1998 World Cup final”

Brazil’s Ronaldo had a seizure the night before the 1998 World Cup final against France and, initially, wasn’t named in the squad for the final in Paris. However, the team sheet quickly changed and suddenly Ronaldo was starting. The striker could do nothing to stop France winning 3-0 as he looked out of sorts. Did Nike - who sponsored Ronaldo - force him to play? Is there a whole conspiracy theory behind the seizure itself?

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“Spurs' lasagna-gate to stop them overtaking Arsenal for fourth”

Spurs only needed to match Arsenal’s result on the final day of the 2005/06 season to finish above their north London rivals for the first time in Premier League history and qualify for the Champions League. However, the night before their match against West Ham at Upton Park, almost the entire squad fell ill after eating lasagna at the Marriott West India Quay hotel. A thread-bare Spurs side subsequently lost 4-2 to the Hammers with Arsenal overtaking them into fourth. Was the lasagna chef a Gooner?

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“The South Korea vs Spain match in the 2002 World Cup was rigged"

South Korea reached the semi-final of the 2002 World Cup in their own country after beating Italy in the last-16 and then Spain in the quarter-finals. But a number of questionable decisions went in their favour during the tournament, as the integrity of the officials was called into question.

“The Match of the Day commentators know what’s going to happen”

Match of the Day commentators are accused of commenting in a studio after the match has already taken place so they know what will happen. It’s a theory that Gary Lineker has disproved previously but that won’t stop supporters from thinking it. It is uncanny how many times they mention a defender going up for a corner and they end up scoring…

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“The CL draws are completely irrelevant and the teams get picked by UEFA themselves after the conclusion of each round"

Fans will always claim that a draw is ‘rigged’ if they face a tough side. Despite the fact that Champions League draws are televised live, fans are still claiming hot balls are used. The same teams always get easy draws apparently…

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“Amazon's Spurs season was scripted. Getting Mourinho was definitely recommended and financed by Amazon. Levy wouldn't consider such money-draining appointment if he wasn't promised that the costs will be covered"

Amazon hit the jackpot by following Spurs last season considering everything that happened. That Amazon had a say in Jose Mourinho replacing Mauricio Pochettino is about as far as we’re willing to go - not that Daniel Levy would have appointed him on Amazon’s say-so. But was Amazon responsible for Spurs losing to Colchester in the Carabao Cup? For losing 7-2 to Bayern Munich? For Eric Dier running into the stands to confront a fan? Doubtful.

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“Harry Kane secretly hates England and that’s why he didn’t square it to Sterling”

Some England fans simply can’t forget when Harry Kane failed to pass to ball to Raheem Sterling against Croatia in the World Cup semi-final back in 2018. But the fact that he didn’t pass it because he ‘hates England’ is just ridiculous. Remember, he did win the Golden Boot in that tournament...

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“Steven Gerrard missed a penalty on purpose to get Roy Hodgson sacked”

Liverpool were losing 3-1 to Blackburn when Steven Gerrard blazed a penalty over with six minutes left at Ewood Park. The loss left Liverpool four points above the relegation zone after 20 matches. Hodgson was sacked three days later. But would Gerrard - club captain - purposely miss a penalty to get him sacked? Surely not…

“There are so many Copa Americas recently because they're trying to give Messi more chances of getting an international trophy”

Lionel Messi is arguably the greatest player to have ever played the game but he’s still looking to win a major trophy for his nation, Argentina. He’s had plenty of chances in the form of Copa America with editions in 2015, 2016, 2019 and another one was scheduled in 2020 in Argentina before being cancelled. Messi will be hoping the one in 2021 goes ahead...

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Denmark and Sweden’s 2-2 draw at Euro 2004

The only result that would send both Denmark and Sweden through at Italy’s expense was 2-2. The final result? 2-2. Italy’s Antonio Cassano thought he had sent the Italians through with a late winner against Bulgaria only to find out mid-celebration the two Scandinavian nations were drawing 2-2. Cue a meltdown.

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Neymar wasn’t really injured at the 2014 World Cup

Was Neymar spared the inevitable humiliation of facing Germany in the World Cup semi-finals by faking a back injury? A video of him seemingly walking around pain-free at his home aroused suspicion. Then fans pointed to images of him covering his face as he entered the hospital with the patient apparently missing tattoos on his arm. Some people have too much time on their hands…

Argentina spike Brazil’s drinks in 1990

Brazil left-back Branco believed Argentina were spiking their water bottle during a 1990 World Cup match after Argentine physio Miguel Di Lorenzo gave him a water bottle. Two days later, Branco complained of feeling dizzy and sick after drinking from what he believed to be tranquiliser-laced water.

In 2005 Diego Maradona suggested that the story was true while coach Carlos Bilardo added: “Look, I’m not saying it didn’t happen.”

Maybe this conspiracy theory isn’t quite so crazy.

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Arsene Wenger signs Dennis Bergkamp for Arsenal

Bruce Rioch deserves so much credit for signing Dennis Bergkamp for Arsenal back in 1995.

Or does he?

That’s because there’s a belief that it was actually the manager of Grampus Eight who played a big role in the deal - Arsene Wenger.

Wenger would go on to become Arsenal boss a year later. Hmmmmm.

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Messi, Iniesta and Pedro send a coded message

Remember when Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Pedro sent a coded message to rebels in Lebanon revealing the best way to smuggle guns with their passing patterns?

“Here we see the first stage where arms are loaded from Lebanon,” began the report on Al Dunya TV who showed a passing move involving Messi, Iniesta and Pedro.

Think we’ll leave it there..

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