Football: The moment Arsenal missed out on a young Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo playing for Manchester United in 2003. Photo / Getty Images
Cristiano Ronaldo playing for Manchester United in 2003. Photo / Getty Images

Arsenal narrowly missed out on signing a teenage Cristiano Ronaldo due to financial restraints, according to former scout Damien Comolli.

Comolli claims to have discovered Ronaldo's formidable talent as early as 2000, when he saw the 15-year-old playing Japan at a youth tournament in France. At that time, no other Premier League club was interested, leaving the Gunners with a seemingly clear route to sign him.

However, Arsene Wenger failed to find the sufficient funds to meet Sporting Lisbon's asking price and the transfer ultimately collapsed.

'The first time I saw Ronaldo was at the Montaigu tournament. He was 15 years old,' Comolli, a former director of football at Tottenham and Liverpool, told SFR Sport 1.

'He was playing Japan and I immediately thought to myself "what is this?". I called my contact in Portugal at half-time and told him I'd seen a phenomenon.

I had never seen anything like it since Thierry Henry.

'He twice visited Arsenal's training centre. Nobody even knows about that. He met Henry, who was his idol. And when the time had come to complete the transfer, there was no money.

'A few months later Manchester United partnered up with Sporting and played a friendly against them. Ronaldo destroyed them and [Alex] Ferguson immediately acted.'

Ronaldo went onto win nine major honours with the Red Devils before sealing a world-record £80million move to Real Madrid in 2009.

That fee, since superseded by Gareth Bale (£86m) and Paul Pogba (£89m), has proved excellent value for money with the Portuguese fulfilling his early promise by becoming arguably the world's best player.

Perhaps that is why Wenger claims one of his biggest regrets as Arsenal manager was not signing Ronaldo when he had the chance.

'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,' he stated in 2014.

- Daily Mail

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