Barcelona legend Ronaldinho has revealed just how close he came to joining Manchester United in 2003, following his stunning World Cup with Brazil in 2002.
The iconic Samba star was heavily linked with a move to Sir Alex Ferguson’s Red Devils, only to decide at the last minute to instead move to Catalonia. Now, as relayed by the Daily Mirror, he has explained how the transfer came to be.
Manchester United rejection
"Everything happened very quickly. A good friend of mine who was running to be on the Barcelona board, Sandro Rosell, had asked me if I'd play for Barcelona when they won the election and I told him that I would.
"I was on the brink of joining Manchester United, there were just a few details to iron out, but Rosell called me at the last minute to tell me that they were going to win the election.
"I was on the brink of joining Manchester United, there were just a few details to iron out, but Rosell called me at the last minute to tell me that they were going to win the election"
"That made everything happen very fast".
"I wanted to play there. I was going to have the chance to follow in my idols' footsteps. I was proud to play where Romario, Ronaldo and Rivaldo had done. I was lucky enough to become the new Barcelona 'R' which I really loved."
It makes sense to assume that United fans will ponder over what might have been given the fact that Ronaldinho went on to become a certified hit at the Nou Camp. The now-24-year-old won the FIFA World Player of the Year award there, as well as quite quickly becoming the lynchpin of Frank Rijkaard's side as the Dutchman led Barca into a new era.
The knock-on effect
For United the blow was somewhat softened by the eventual emergence of Cristiano Ronaldo, who of course went on to establish himself as a world-class player in his own right. At the time though Ferguson had every right to be miffed at having missed out on Ronaldinho, as David Beckham was just coming to the end of his Old Trafford tenure.
The former England captain moved to Real Madrid in the same year that his Brazilian counterpart moved from Paris Saint-Germain to Barcelona, and although he was received well at the Santiago Bernabeu he never really enjoyed a comparable amount of success.
Whilst Ronaldinho became a hero at the Nou Camp, Beckham was simply the latest shining addition to a galaxy of stars, and it could be argued that the latter’s effectiveness at United had already hit its peak by the time of his departure.
End of an era
It was eventually the arrival of Pep Guardiola which heralded the end of Ronaldinho at Barcelona, with the Spaniard having his own ideals with which he wanted to the take the club forward. Lionel Messi quickly became the figurehead of his all-conquering side, and the period wherein the ex-Gremio man was cheered like a god at the club was brought to an abrupt end.
Football fans, do you wish you’d had the chance to see Ronaldinho play in the Premier League whilst in his prime years? Let us know in the comments box below...