Ex-Barcelona vice-president tells the incredible story behind signing Ronaldo in 1996

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Younger fans are unlikely to remember the time where a certain Ronaldo would strut his stuff at the Camp Nou on a weekly basis.

No, not the Cristiano Ronaldo who has been banging in goals for Real Madrid for the last seven years but his legendary predecessor, Ronaldo from Brazil.

His full name: Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima, but to you and I, he was simply Ronaldo and he was seriously good at football.

He arrived at Barcelona in 1996 with a growing reputation and for a fee of $19.7 million which was a world record at the time.

But the club's vice-president responsible for delivering Ronaldo's signature has revealed the incredible story of how the 19-year-old became a Barcelona player.

Joan Gaspart was under pressure to deliver a big name to signal the start of a new era under Bobby Robson and wasn't afraid to use some unconventional methods to get his man.

Barcelona had been able to agree a fee with Ronaldo's current employers at the time, PSV, fairly easily but as Gaspart revealed in an interview with Goal, they needed to get the deal done quickly.

"It didn’t take long to reach an agreement with PSV. The fee back then was 1,500,000,000 pesetas - around €15 million in today’s money. But the agreement had a little problem,” Gaspart said.

“We needed to get the player’s agreement and we needed it before July 15, because that was when the pact with PSV was set to expire.”

But the Dutch club then had a change of heart and did everything in their power to prevent Gaspart getting in contact with Ronaldo before the deadline to sign him had passed.

So when Gaspart flew over to Brazil to conclude the deal and was met by members of security at the hotel Ronaldo was staying at, who refused to let him see the striker, he was forced to go incognito to get the signature he so desperately needed.

He added: "There were two security guards that didn’t want me to go through and see Ronaldo or any other player.

“I met a Spanish waiter in the hotel and he leant me his work clothes, gave me a tray and a Coca-Cola.

“I put on the disguise, said hello to the security guards and told them a guest and asked for a soft drink. This time, they let me past.

“I knocked on Ronaldo’s door and he himself opened it. He signed the contract right there, on the bed.”

So it turns out that without Gaspart's brilliant ingenuity, there is a very good chance Ronaldo would have never become a Barcelona player.

Unfortunately, the Brazilian was on the move again just one year later but it was still enough time for him leave a lasting impression at the Camp Nou in the form of 47 goals from 49 games, rendering Gaspart's efforts well worth the trouble.

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