Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has revealed in a new documentary that he was close to signing Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo when he was still a teenager.
Speaking in a new programme called Ronaldo Footballing Superstar, Wenger says the Portuguese had even been given the number 9 shirt before Manchester United came in at the last minute to seal the deal. The documentary looks at the rise of Ronaldo and follows his career from being a teenage prodigy at Sporting Lisbon to global superstar at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Wenger says: “He was very close to coming here. He has a number nine shirt with Ronaldo on the back from Arsenal Football Club.”
The Frenchman, who completes 17 years in charge of the club this week, added that then-assistant manager of Manchester United, Carlos Quieroz, called Ronaldo at the last minute. The pair knew each other from their Sporting Lisbon days, and Quieroz persuaded the 18-year-old Ronaldo to head to Old Trafford instead.
At the end of the interview, Wenger adds: “That’s what life is about. You give your best but sometimes you might find that people are stronger than you. That can happen as well.”
Ronaldo played for Manchester United for six years before making a world record move to Real Madrid in 2009. He has scored 210 goals in 207 games for Los Blancos.