Cristiano Ronaldo says he almost poised to join Arsenal before he accepted an offer to sign for Manchester United in 2003.
United’s offer of £12.24 million was three times that of Arsenal’s and Sporting Lisbon had no choice but to accept.
”I met Arsene on three occasions and one of those times was with my mum who wanted to hear what he was proposing,” the 23-year-old told France Football.
”The contact we had with him and Arsenal meant it was very close to being a done deal. Really, we were within touching distance.”
”Wenger remains someone that I still have immense esteem for and it’s clear that he’s a really intelligent football guy.
”My mum feels the same way and a while after I signed for United she and I were sitting watching a Premier League game on television and she yelled out ‘I know that guy, I liked him,”’ he added.
Ronaldo’s agent Jorge Mendes also said there was huge interest in his client when he considered leaving his native Portugal.
”When he was moving from Sporting Lisbon the whole world wanted him, Real Madrid, Juve, Barcelona… but only United and Arsenal were willing to take him right away, the other clubs thought he should stay for another season at Sporting,” said Mendes. ”Then United won the war by paying more”.
Ronaldo, who inspired United to the Champions League and Premier League double this year, was awarded the Ballon d’Or on Tuesday after a poll of 96 international journalists organised by the magazine.
”I think I have gone down in history. And I am only 23,” Ronaldo said. ”But I think I have to work even more. I never relax… I want to do as much next year and even more.
”Since I arrived at Manchester United, I have always improved year after year. I have always achieved something more season after season… I want more titles, more awards and another Ballon d’Or.”
Meanwhile, United manager Sir Alex Ferguson said he felt Cristiano Ronaldo was a deserving winner of the award.
”It is brilliant for Ronaldo to win the Ballon D’Or,” said Ferguson. ”I will be going to see him receive his award on Sunday and it is well deserved.
”The percentage of votes he got made it an almost unanimous decision. It is good to know he wants to improve. I think he will improve.”