Arsene Wenger says Arsenal failed to sign Cristiano Ronaldo as a teenager because they wouldn’t match Manchester United’s £12 million bid for Sporting CP starlet.
“He was here with his mother and we were very close,” Wenger said. “Then Man United came in and they had Carlos Queiroz at the time, who was their coach. United played against Sporting Lisbon and Ronaldo was outstanding and they signed him.
“There is always something you could have done differently, but the problem of negotiations is to know when you give in and when you don’t give in. Once we were at £4.5m, we were still in negotiations. David met with [Ronaldo’s agent Jorge] Mendes in Paris and he was representing Sporting, so we were very close. But Man United went to £12m, which we could not afford at the time.”
He left Man United for Real Madrid for a then-world record fee of £80 million in 2009.
“You could imagine at the time what it would have been like to have Thierry Henry and Ronaldo together,” Wenger said. “That would certainly have changed a little bit the history of my stay here as well.”
Wenger also recounted his attempt to sign Lionel Messi at the same time as Cesc Fabregas joined the club from Barcelona’s academy. That one wasn’t as close, though.