Sao Paulo: Brazilian football chief Ricardo Teixeira is under increasing pressure to step down after the country's largest newspaper published a report linking him to a company being investigated for over-billing an international friendly four years ago.
The story by the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper on Thursday came amid widespread reports that Teixeira will resign or take a leave of absence, effectively ending his contentious 23-year rule of Brazilian football and the national team.
Teixeira is also likely to leave his post as president of the 2014 World Cup organizing committee, although his eventual resignation would not significantly affect Brazil's preparations as they currently are mostly handled by the federal government.
Former Brazil striker Romario, now a congressman, said his country's football is going through a "delicate moment" and wrote on Twitter that government intervention in the federation is needed if Teixeira leaves.
Folha said the company linked to Teixeira, the president of Brazil's football federation and the 2014 World Cup organizing committee, over-billed air tickets and hotel stays for a Brazil friendly against Portugal in 2008.
Teixeira has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
Folha said police found evidence that a partner from the company Ailanto Marketing, which helped organize the friendly that cost nearly $5 million in public money, made payments to Teixeira four months after the match in Brasilia. The payments, which could total $350,000, were supposedly part of a contract for renting land owned by Teixeira near Rio de Janeiro.
Teixeira told Folha that the land contract had nothing to do with the friendly in 2008, which was organized by marketing agencies and not the Brazilian federation.
Calls and e-mail messages to Ailanto Marketing were not successful on Thursday.
The 2014 World Cup organizing committee said it would not comment on the reports that Teixeira would resign in the coming days. The press office said that Teixeira remained the committee's president, and posted a photo of him alongside former striker Bebeto, who was appointed as the third and final member of the committee's administrative council on Thursday. Teixeira is also a member, along with Ronaldo.
The World Cup's all-time greatest goalscorer said he wasn't told about a possible exit by Teixeira.
"It would be a pity if it happened," Ronaldo told local media. "He brought the World Cup to Brazil."
A possible replacement for Teixeira in the Brazilian federation is Jose Maria Marin, but he isn't totally free of controversy.
Earlier this year, television cameras caught him putting a winner's medal in his pocket while presenting them to the players of an under-18 tournament in Sao Paulo. He later said the medal was given to him. Organizers never accused him of any wrongdoing.
Romario called for Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff to intervene in the federation.
"President Dilma: Take action in this delicate moment that Brazilian football is going through," Romario tweeted. "Only the Brazilian government can help and solve this problem. We need someone with a technical background, a professional, honest and capable person."
Although FIFA prohibits any kind of government intervention in national football federations, Romario insists the Brazilian government has to get involved in this case.
"Any other (federation) president which takes over without the federal government's intervention will be an act of manipulation," he said.
The 64-year-old Teixeira took over the Brazilian football federation in an election in 1989, when the entity struggled financially. He revamped it completely and saw results on and off the field, with Brazil winning two World Cup under his command and the federation becoming one of the most valuable in the world.
But the success didn't come without controversy in Brazil and abroad.
Teixeira was never convicted of any wrongdoing and has always denied all the allegations against him, but he was twice investigated by Brazil's Congress and was accused of taking kickbacks from former FIFA marketing partner ISL in the 1990s.
He was also accused of unethical behavior by the former chairman of England's Football Association, David Triesman, who said during a British parliamentary inquiry that Teixeira and other FIFA executive committee members engaged in improper conduct during bidding for the 2018 World Cup. FIFA cleared the Brazilian, who said the allegations were made because the English were upset over losing the World Cup bid.
After the 1994 World Cup, won by Brazil, Teixeira found himself amid a controversy when players and officials tried to re-enter Brazil without paying proper taxes on gifts and other imported goods bought by them in the United States.
Brazilian media often accused Teixeira of irregularities in his administration of Brazilian football, and some fans have protested against him in public marches and on social media.
Teixeira seemed to have the support of FIFA president Sepp Blatter and at one point was touted as his possible replacement in football's governing body. But the relationship between the two apparently hasn't been as good recently, especially after Blatter decided to allow the release of the documents that allegedly implicate Teixeira in the ISL case. FIFA eventually postponed publication of the documents citing legal measures.