Former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has revealed just how close he came to bringing Cristiano Ronaldo to the club before Manchester United hijacked the deal.
The Portugal international, now regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, first rose to prominence when he made the move to Man Utd as a skinny teenager in the summer of 2003.
Ronaldo looked a bright prospect full of tricks and skills, but he later honed his game to become an extraordinary goal-scoring machine, leading United to three Premier League titles in a row and a Champions League victory before he left for Real Madrid in 2009.
At the Bernabeu, he enjoyed even more success with an astonishing record of 450 goals in 438 games in all competitions, helping himself to four Champions League titles along the way.
One can only imagine how differently things might have gone for Arsenal in the last decade if they’d signed Ronaldo, and Wenger admits it’s a big source of regret for him.
When asked about it in a Q&A with the Guardian, the French tactician admits a deal was all but done after he had lunch with Ronaldo and his mother, only for United to swoop in instead.
“Oof! I would say there is not one player, there are 50 (I regret not signing)! On the other hand, maybe the closest was Cristiano Ronaldo, when he signed for Man United,” Wenger said.
“We had an agreement with Sporting and Man United took Carlos Queiroz as assistant coach, and they just outbid us quickly and took Ronaldo. But we had an agreement basically. He had the shirt of Arsenal, I had lunch with him and his mother at the training ground!
“It’s one example but there were so many. The history of a big club is full of missed great players!”