Rio Ferdinand reveals who Manchester United almost signed in 2003 instead of Cristiano Ronaldo

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When Cristiano Ronaldo signed for Manchester United back in 2003, few could have predicted the incredible player he would go on to become.

United spent £12 million on the skinny 18-year-old after they had played against him for his former club, Sporting Lison, in a friendly.

"He [Ronaldo] is extremely talented, uses both of his feet well, can play in any attacking position, and is one of the most exciting young players I've ever seen," Ferguson said at the time.

And it’s fair to say that Ronaldo fulfilled his potential at Old Trafford.

The Portuguese forward scored 118 goals during his six seasons at the club, helping them to win three Premier Leagues, an FA Cup, two League Cups and a Champions League.

His spell in Manchester under Sir Alex Ferguson was the perfect platform for him to go on to achieve even greater success. In 2009, he moved to Real Madrid for £80 million and took his game to the next level.

As they say, the rest is history with Ronaldo having scored an incredible 371 goals in 360 appearances for the Bernabeu club, establishing himself as one of the best players that has ever played the game.

But things may not have worked out as they did if United had signed their transfer target before Ronaldo arrived.

That’s because, according to Rio Ferdinand, the club came close to landed an alternative superstar during the summer of 2003.

"I told Alex [Ferguson] this is the guy we should sign," Ferdinand said, per Marca.

"We had just missed signing Ronaldinho and everyone was disappointed but here was a player we thought could be even better."

Back in 2003, Ronaldinho was about to leave French club Paris Saint-Germain after impressing during his two seasons there.

However, it appears that the Brazilian preferred La Liga to the Premier League and signed for Barcelona for €30 million, rather than the Red Devils.

Ronaldinho also went on to become one of the best players in his generation during his time at Camp Nou and would have no doubt flourished at the Theatre of Dreams.

However, not even Ronaldinho - who won the Ballon d’Or in 2005 - could have reached the standards that Ronaldo set in the Premier League.

In the end, it seems as though it was a blessing in disguise that United missed out of their main transfer target back in 2003. If they had signed Ronaldinho, a move for Ronaldo would have been out of the question, meaning he may not be where he is today.

Having said that, the 31-year-old has reached the top of football through sheer hard-work and dedication and it seems he was always destined for greatness no matter which path took him there.

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Wayne Rooney
Real Madrid
Rio Ferdinand
Premier League
Cristiano Ronaldo
Alex Ferguson
Paul Scholes
Manchester United
Ryan Giggs

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