Arsene Wenger has revealed that missing out on Cristiano Ronaldo is one of his biggest regrets as Arsenal manager.
The Real Madrid star was at Sporting Lisbon at the time and was being courted by a number of top clubs around Europe. The then 19-year-old eventually chose Manchester United, but Wenger has admitted the Gunners were very close to winning the race.
Speaking to Arsenal's sponsor, Huawei, Wenger said: "My biggest regret, I was so close, to signing Cristiano Ronaldo, and not only did I not get him he signed for Manchester United, so that of course still hurts today."
This is not the first time Wenger has spoken of his attempts to sign Ronaldo as a youngster. However, labelling it as his biggest regret as Arsenal manager certainly adds weight to the claim.
Ronaldo went on to become a legend at Old Trafford scoring 118 goals before leaving for Real Madrid in a world record £80 million deal. He left having picked up a Ballon d'Or and went on to break goal scoring records in La Liga.
In just five years Ronaldo has scored 257 goals for Real Madrid, maintaining an average of over a goal a game. However, he is still some way short of Raul's record tally of 323.
Premier League return
To add insult to injury, it is looking increasingly likely that Ronaldo will be returning to Manchester United in the near future. Reports suggest that the £290,000-a-week star is contemplating an exit from the Spanish capital and Manchester United is an obvious destination.
Now commanding a huge wage, Ronaldo is well out of Arsenal's price range now and are not expected to compete for his signature if he does leave. It is also hard to see Ronaldo rejecting Manchester United, where he is still considered a living legend, for one of their Premier League rivals.
Wenger also took the time to tell Arsenal fans that he regretted missing out on Didier Drogba as he was aware of his talent Le Mans but did not sign him. Drogba went on to become a legend for Chelsea and also inflicted a lot of damage against the Gunners.
The Arsenal boss said: "I missed him when he was playing in France and I knew he was a good player then.
"And he hurt us so much in big games, and so if he played for us it would not of happened."