Cristiano Ronaldo has long been confirmed as a sworn-in member of Arsene Wenger’s ‘Nearly Men XI’, having flirted with the possibility of signing for Arsenal as a younger man.
Back in 2003, Ronaldo came to London Colney to have a look around and was even presented with an Arsenal shirt with his name on the back by Wenger himself, only for Manchester United to wade in and gazump the deal after being enraptured by the 18-year-old winger during a pre-season friendly against Sporting Lisbon a few weeks later.
Speaking in an interview with the official Arsenal website, Wenger has admitted that he still regards Ronaldo as “the one that got away” over the course of his 22 years in charge:
He [Ronaldo] was here with his mother and we were very close. Then United came in and they had Carlos Queiroz at the time, who was their coach.
United played against Sporting Lisbon and Ronaldo was outstanding and they signed him.
There is always something you could have done differently, but the problem of negotiations is to know when you give in and when you don’t give in.
Once we were at £4.5million, we were still in negotiations. David [Dein, Arsenal vice-chairman] met with [Ronaldo’s agent Jorge] Mendes in Paris and he was representing Sporting, so we were very close. But Man United went to £12million, which we could not afford at the time.
You could imagine at the time what it would have been like to have Thierry Henry and Ronaldo together.
That would certainly have changed a little bit the history of my stay here as well.
That was the summer that the Gunners purchased Cesc Fabregas, Jose Antonio Reyes, Jens Lehmann, Gael Clichy and… Philippe Senderos, so they didn’t do too badly with their dabblings in the market.
But still, look what they could’ve won…
All the knitwear.
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