Cristiano Ronaldo became one of the world’s best players at Manchester United but who knows what path his career would have taken if didn’t join the Premier League giants in 2003.
A superstar? Probably. Three Ballon d’Ors? Maybe not. It is said that to succeed in England, players need a physical element to survive the bruising style and Ronaldo developed from a scrawny teenager into football’s greatest athlete at Old Trafford.
But it could have been so different if the Portuguese had completed a proposed move to Juventus in 2002.
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Former Juve scout Gianni Di Marzio has revealed that Ronaldo was on the brink of joining the Old Lady from Sporting Lisbon - he and his mother even travelled to Turin - but talks stalled when Marcelo Salas refused to be involved in a swap-deal.
Sir Alex Ferguson swooped one year later and the rest is history.
But the Real Madrid star so nearly passed him by.
Manchester Evening News quote Di Marzio as telling La Repubblica: “I made a report on Cristiano and went to watch him play for Sporting against Belenenses.
“I spoke to the kid and to his mother and the following day both of them were in Turin, where he underwent a medical. But in the end it didn’t come together.
“As part of the deal, Marcelo Salas was supposed to go to Sporting but he refused to go and the transfer broke down.”
United paid Sporting £12.24 million for Ronaldo in August 2003 after Ferguson was urged to sign the winger from senior players, who were dazzled by his skills in a pre-season friendly.
13 years on, the 31-year-old has three Ballon d’Ors and a place in football’s history books.
But imagine if Salas had said yes.