Arsenal fans are aware that Cristiano Ronaldo came close to joining their club before eventually signing for Manchester United in the summer of 2003 - but they might not realise quite how close the transfer came to happening.
In his new book about the three-time Ballon d’Or winner - currently being serialised by the Telegraph - author Guillem Balague reveals that Ronaldo fell in love with the Gunners and wanted to sign for the north London outfit.
Arsene Wenger, meanwhile, had saved the number nine shirt for him after Francis Jeffers moved back to Everton on loan following the 2003 Community Shield against United.
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Balague reveals that Ronaldo travelled to London with his mother in the January for a tour around the club’s training ground and to meet both Wenger and one of his idols, Thierry Henry.
The Portuguese winger’s agent, Jorge Mendes, did not travel to the English capital but kept tabs on his client’s progress and warned him to keep a low profile.
Mendes also thought Ronaldo was off to Arsenal
“We were in a car and Jorge kept calling me to reiterate I had to make sure nobody saw me,” Ronaldo is quoted as saying in Balague’s book. “We stopped at a service station and I had to have my face covered. Jorge was calling me every five minutes: ‘Be careful, be careful around people!’”
Also in the book, Mendes admits: “There was a time when I really thought [Ronaldo] was going to Arsenal.”
So, why didn’t Ronaldo end up at Arsenal?
Well, Balague reveals, the Gunners made the mistake of waiting, which allowed Manchester United to pounce after their friendly with Sporting Lisbon in August 2003.
Ronaldo tore United’s defenders to shreds, Sir Alex Ferguson made his move and the rest is history.
Would Cristiano Ronaldo have been as successful had he joined Arsenal over Manchester United in 2003? Have your say by leaving a comment in the box below!