Football megastar Cristiano Ronaldo came close to joining Arsenal in 2003 but the move was put on ice after The Gunners were unable to come up with the funds to complete the deal, according to the Metro.
Now a firm legend in the books of both Man United and Real Madrid fans, the Portuguese forward’s future could have been very different had Arsenal not been in the process of building the Emirates Stadium at the time, Spanish football expert Guillem Balague tells the Daily Telegraph.
“Cristiano travelled to London with his mother in January to see the club’s training ground and meet Arsène Wenger and one of his idols, Thierry Henry,” Balague explains in a serialisation of his book Cristiano Ronaldo: The Biography.
“Cristiano fell in love with the club, what it offered, the philosophy and the care with which young players are treated.
“Arsenal, who wanted to confirm that he had the personality required to change his own lifestyle, country, language, had no doubts after his visit: he was ready. The player wanted to sign for the club. [Jorge] Mendes [his agent], too. As did Wenger, who kept the number nine shirt for him.
“The club’s vice-chairman, David Dein, travelled to the Portuguese capital to seal the deal, but the initial offer was too low for Sporting. ‘Arsenal, with the construction of the new stadium, were short on funds and it wasn’t possible to make the move happen,’ stated Mendes.”