Everyone loves a good transfer rumour and I’m not ashamed to say it but I love the transfers that come out of thin air that nobody ever saw coming. Some that come to mind are when Argentinian World Cup Stars Javier Mascherano & Carlos Tevez pitched up at West Ham and in Scotland, Fabrizio Ravanelli and Claudio Caniggia going to Dundee but in 1997 a rumour was going about Scottish Football that would have blown all other transfers out of the water as the story goes that Rangers were trying to sign Brazilian Superstar Ronaldo and for a long time I’ve been looking to find out was it an urban myth or if was there some truth to it.
In 1997, Rangers were dominating Scottish Football winning 9 consecutive league titles and racking up Scottish & League Cup trophies under Walter Smith but that wasn’t enough for owner David Murray. The Champions League was the pursuit of Murray and he wanted to go all the way in the competition after some disappointing performances in recent years since Rangers nearly went all the way in 1993 coming within 1 point of winning the inaugural Champions League. Losing to the likes of Levski Sofia and AEK Athens wasn’t good enough and pressure even grew on Walter Smith for European results in his excellent first spell at Ibrox but to go to the next level Rangers needed more and they were willing to break the bank to win the Champions League.
Ronaldo was a Brazilian striker who was at the absolute mountain top in World Football in 1997 and was the reigning FIFA World Player Of The Year. Since moving to Europe he has scored 54 Goals in 57 Games for PSV Eindhoven before moving for a a World Record Fee of £15 Million to FC Barcelona and scoring 47 Goals in 49 Games for the Spanish club. Ronaldo was unquestionably the best player in the world and as lethal a striker as world football had ever seen before.
Contract issues were taking place with Ronaldo at the Nou Camp and this resulted in the striker being up for sale. It was announced that any club who wanted to buyout Ronaldo’s £20 Million contract were free to sign him and according to Ronaldo’s agent Giovanni Branchini it came down to 3 clubs: Inter Milan, Lazio & Rangers. Branchini recalled: “The clause in his contract was a novelty at the time and it scared a lot of clubs off”
“The three who were really interested were Inter, Lazio and Glasgow Rangers, who followed negotiations all the way.”The offer from Glasgow Rangers was incredible.”They told us he didn’t have to play on a Saturday in the Scottish League. They were desperate to win the Champions League and were going to allow him to play in the European matches only.”But Inter had followed him from when he used to play in Brazil. Barcelona reneged on a new contract and Inter were the first club to meet the release clause, so he went there.”
You read it right, if Ronaldo has signed for Rangers in 1997 then he would only have to have played in Champions League matches. It must have been tempting if true for Ronaldo, only playing around 10 Games a season even if it is in chilly Glasgow. The story is crazy and I have a couple of reasons to doubt if it ever even happened.
Firstly, Rangers were going for an historic 10th League Title in a Row and were under the cosh for most of the season, can you imagine if Rangers had a striker injury crisis and they had a £20 Million Striker on the books and couldn’t use him, it would have been great to see Ronaldo pitching up at an away game at the likes of Rugby Park and McDirmaid Park every 2nd weekend.
My Second reason to doubt this is the story that Nike who were sponsoring Rangers at the time had a part in this “deal”. The myth is that Nike would pay Ronaldo’s wages if he pitched up at Ibrox and all Rangers had to pay was the colossal £20 Million transfer fee. Ronaldo was Nike’s Golden Boy and it just baffles me that they would be willing to allow their main man to only feature a few times a season. Also, the Rangers fans back then would have been craving for Ronaldo to play in every game, firstly so they could see the best player in the world playing for their club so they could be even more dominant domestically and for how much he would have improved the team every time he played.
And with what we know now regarding some of the things that went on at Ibrox behind the scenes, it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if David Murray tried to pull this one of just to say to people “I have the best player in the world here and he is going to win us the Champions League.” Ally McCoist also weighed in on this rumour on TalkSport last year and he said “Frankly I can’t believe that”. I’m with you Ally, I just can’t see this being true, it is a great transfer story but I just don’t see the Rangers fans standing for a Superstar like Ronaldo playing only in European games but the story is crazy and out there so it wouldn’t surprise me if Murray tried to make it happen to win the Champions League.
Ronaldo went on to join Inter Milan and have an exceptional career that would have been so much better barring bad injuries. Winning the World Cup with Brazil in 2002 is probably the best moment of his career but would it have been the top if Ronaldo went to Ibrox and helped Rangers to 10 In A Row?