Arsene Wenger reveals JUST how close Cristiano Ronaldo came from joining Arsenal from Sporting Lisbon in 2003 as the former Gunners boss admits the Portuguese superstar ‘had the shirt’ before Manchester United swooped in
- Arsene Wenger has admitted his regret over failing to sign Cristiano Ronaldo
- He revealed Arsenal had ‘an agreement’ to seal a deal for the young winger
- Wenger said Portuguese star ‘had the Arsenal shirt’ before United outbid them
The Portuguese superstar was just a teenager when he moved to Old Trafford from Sporting Lisbon for £12.5million in 2003, but the forward had held talks about signing for the Gunners.
Wenger has previously spoken of persuading the future superstar’s mother about a move to Arsenal, but now he has shed light on the transfer saga – admitting Ronaldo ‘had the shirt’ after reaching an agreement with Sporting.
Arsene Wenger has revealed just how close Cristiano Ronaldo came to joining Arsenal in 2003
He said the young star (R) ‘had the shirt of Arsenal’ before they were outbid by Man United
When asked by the Guardian for his biggest transfer regrets, the Frenchman said: ‘Oof! I would say there is not one player, there are 50!
‘On the other hand, maybe the closest [to that] was Cristiano Ronaldo, when he signed for Man United.
‘We had an agreement with Sporting and Man United took Carlos Queiroz as assistant coach, and they just outbid us quickly and took Ronaldo, but we had an agreement basically. He had the shirt of Arsenal, I had lunch with him and his mother at the training ground!
Wenger said Arsenal had an agreement with Sporting Lisbon for the teenager back in 2003
‘It’s one example but there were so many. The history of a big club is full of missed great players!’
Ronaldo has gone on to become one of the greatest players in the history of the game, winning three league titles at Old Trafford and scoring 118 goals. He then headed to Real Madrid for a then-record £80m and write his name into the club’s folklore as he helped them win four Champions League titles.
He is now at Juventus and continues to excel in Serie A despite recently turning 35.
Arsenal fans have been teased for many years about the top stars they narrowly missed out on, with Wenger previously admitting the Gunners tried to sign Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique from Barcelona when they were youngsters, before settling for midfielder Cesc Fabregas.
Now 35 and with Juventus, Ronaldo has become one of the greatest players of all time
But he insists he was delighted to get the young Spaniard over the line as he was a ‘brain for football’, despite missing out on two players who would go on to become world class.
‘I met Cesc’s parents and at the time we were interested in Messi and [Gerard] Pique as well,’ he said in 2018. ‘We tried for the three but of course it didn’t work out, but we got a gem there in Cesc and he is an exceptional player. A brain for football.
Wenger managed Arsenal for 22 years and enjoyed a hugely successful reign, winning the Premier League three times as well as seven FA Cups.
After leaving the Emirates in 2018, he was linked with a host of top jobs before being appointed as FIFA’s head of global football development, where he is in charge of overseeing training programmes and potential rule changes.