Arsene Wenger has revealed how close he came to signing Cristiano Ronaldo – and says he still trembles at the thought of what he and Thierry Henry could have achieved together at Arsenal.
Ronaldo has become a global superstar since joining Manchester United from Sporting Lisbon in 2003, going on to star for Real Madrid, Juventus and Portugal.
He has won five Champions League titles and been named Ballon d'Or winner five times, as well as winning four Club World Cups and domestic titles in England, Spain and Italy.
The 35-year-old has scored 641 career goals at club level plus another 101 on the international stage as Portugal's all-time leading goalscorer.
At United, Ronaldo helped fire Sir Alex Ferguson's side to three Premier League titles, the Champions League and the Club World Cup before joining Madrid in an £85million move in 2009.
But it could so easily have been Arsenal who benefited from his services for those years, as Wenger has detailed in an interview published this week.
And at the time that would have given the Gunners a fearsome forward line of Ronaldo, Henry and Dennis Bergkamp.
And Wenger says the idea of such an attack still makes him perspire.
“When I had Thierry, I could have signed (Cristiano) Ronaldo," Wenger told the latest edition of FourFourTwo.
"Can you imagine what they could have done together?
"That makes you sweat a little bit, and I was very close to doing it. I thought it was all done.
Holding his index finger and thumb within a millimetre of each other to illustrate just how narrowly he missed out, Wenger told the magazine: “It was that close.
“But I would say that every club could tell you stories like that.”
Wenger last week admitted that Ronaldo had even been given an Arsenal shirt ready for a switch to north London.
But United's link-up with Sporting got in the way of a deal.
“We had an agreement with Sporting and Man United took Carlos Queiroz as assistant coach, and they just outbid us quickly and took Ronaldo," Wenger said.
"But we had an agreement basically.
“He had the shirt of Arsenal – I had lunch with him and his mother at the training ground!"
During his 22-year spell in the Arsenal hotseat, Wenger guided the Gunners to three Premier League titles, seven FA Cups and seven Community Shield wins.
It's a very respectable trophy haul – but it's not hard to imagine it could have been so much bigger had the Frenchman not been pipped to Ronaldo's signature by his great rival Ferguson all those years ago.
The full version of the interview with Arsene Wenger appears in the new issue of FourFourTwo – on sale on Wednesday, October 21. Also in the issue: Luka Modric answers readers questions, Neil ‘Razor’ Ruddock gives his rundown of the hardest footballers and we look back at Gazza’s 39 days in charge of Kettering. To sign up for a FourFourTwo subscription starting at £9.99 per quarter click here.
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