Cristiano Ronaldo has confirmed Arsene Wenger’s long-standing claim that he could have joined Arsenal ahead of Manchester United.
A then relatively-unknown Ronaldo moved to Manchester United in 2003 for a fee of £12.25m from Sporting Lisbon, but had attracted interest from other clubs – one of which Wenger claims was Arsenal.
In August 2003, Sporting defeated United 3–1 at the opening of the Estádio José Alvalade in Lisbon. A young Ronaldo starred in that match and attracted the admiration of Alex Ferguson; and the rest as they say, was history.
In 2014, Wenger lamented his misfortune in missing out on Ronaldo, describing it has the ‘biggest regret’ of his career.
“My biggest regret? I was so close to signing Cristiano Ronaldo, and not only did I not get him, he signed for Manchester United. So that of course still hurts today,” Wenger said.
That story has now been corroborated by Ronaldo for the first time in an interview with Marca, as relayed by Sport Witness.
“Yes, it was not expected that United would be my team,” Ronaldo said.
“Other clubs had asked for me, like Valencia, Arsenal or Inter.
“But then we played them [United] and everyone knows what happened.”
Ronaldo on future
Ronaldo, who is favourite to win the 2016 Ballon d’Or, this week signed a new deal to keep him at Real Madrid until 2021.
However, the player has revealed he doesn’t believe the deal will be the last of his playing career and said: “I would like to thank the Real Madrid president, the club, my team-mates, those who have helped me reach this stage,” Ronaldo said at a club ceremony confirming his renewal.
“It’s a very important day. I have said many times that I carry this club in my heart, it’s part of me.
“In a very special moment of time in my life, I’m going to be here for another five years. It’s not going to be my last contract, let it be known, but it’s very special.
“My thoughts are I want to continue being the best. I want to wear this shirt with pride and I’m sure I’m going to continue contributing the same over the next five years as I have been, scoring goals and winning titles.
“I have to wait and see [about the date of my retirement]. Who knows what the future holds. Of course, I would like to end my career at this club. This is my penultimate contract. I want to be here for many years to come. I’m overjoyed.”