Cristiano Ronaldo admits he came "within a whisker" of signing for Arsenal before eventually joining their Barclays Premier League rivals Manchester United.
Gunners boss Arsene Wenger met the Portugal winger three times in a bid to bring the player to north London, but United gazumped the deal by entering negotiations and bidding three times what Arsenal offered for the recently-crowned 2008 Ballon d'Or winner.
"I came within a whisker of doing it," said Ronaldo who signed for United in August 2003 for just over £12million pounds in an interview he gave with France Football. "Wenger is someone I respect a lot. He is very intelligent."
Jorge Mendes, Ronaldo's agent, added: "That is what happened. Everyone wanted Cristiano; Real (Madrid), Juventus, Barcelona.
"But only Arsenal and Manchester United attempted to take him from there (Sporting Lisbon) that season. The others wanted to leave him at Sporting at least a year."
It is widely believed Ronaldo's sensational performance in Sporting's 3-1 win over United in a friendly on August 5, 2003 convinced the English club to sign him.
But Mendes revealed a deal had been agreed before that friendly, adding: "Everything was in place before, since an agreement had been reached the day before the match."
Ronaldo has gone on to become arguably the world's greatest player.
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