It is still nothing short of astonishing to marvel at the goalscoring machine Cristiano Ronaldo has become in comparison to the 18-year-old who joined Manchester United in 2003.
Despite his slight physique and occasionally frustrating tendency to take on defenders instead of playing a simple pass, the Portuguese always looked like a player capable of becoming one of the best in the world.
Ronaldo – who joined the Red Devils from Sporting Lisbon for approximately £12 million – went on to establish himself as a true Old Trafford legend before earning a dream move to Real Madrid in 2009.
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The United faithful still share a strong bond with the 31-year-old for all he contributed to the club during his six-year stint with the Red Devils.
However, the early stages of his career have could easily have panned out very differently if not for an move to prior to putting pen to paper with the 20-time champions of England.
According to Goal, former scout Damien Comolli says Ronaldo was spotted by Arsenal near the beginning of his career at Sporting and was invited to train with them in London.
However, no agreement came to fruition, and as fate would have it, Ronaldo caught the eye of Sir Alex Ferguson just a few months later.
"The first time I saw Ronaldo, it was at the Montaigu tournament, he was 15," Comolli told SFR Sport.
"He played against Japan before and I thought: ‘Who the hell is this?’
"At half-time, I called my contact in Portugal to which I said that I had seen a phenomenon. Since Thierry Henry, I had never seen anyone like that.
"He came to the [Arsenal] training centre twice. Nobody knows that. He met Thierry, who was his idol. But when it came to making the transfer, there was no money.
"Some months later, Manchester United secured a partnership with Sporting and they played a friendly match in Lisbon. He slaughtered them and Sir Alex Ferguson said: ‘He must go to United’.”
While it is impossible to hand-pick every world-beater who shows a flash or two of brilliance, hindsight must be more tortuous than beautiful for Arsene Wenger and Arsenal fans in this context.
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