Arsenal were interested in signing Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo as a teenager but could not stump up the money to land him from Sporting Lisbon, according to Damien Comolli.
The former Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool director of football has opened up on the first time he watched the Portuguese attacker play and has tracked the phenomenon’s movements as a youngster.
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Ronaldo came through the ranks at Sporting before moving to Manchester United, with the three-time Ballon d’Or winner proving himself in the Premier League before switching to Madrid.
However, the story could have been so different had Arsene Wenger got his way, with Comolli revealing that the star forward was being targeted by the Gunners also.
The French executive has stated that Ronaldo visited Arsenal’s training facility twice as a teenager during his Sporting days, but United ended up beating their Premier League rivals to the starlet’s signature.
“The first time I saw Ronaldo, it was at the Montaigu tournament, he was 15,” Comolli told French TV station 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’.”
The story is similar to Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s case, with the Swedish forward close to signing for the North London outfit also as a youngster.
Ronaldo has gone on to win almost every honour in the world game and will go down as one of the best players in history.