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19.09.2014 » Wenger: "My biggest regret is not having signed Cristiano Ronaldo"

Arsene Wenger, Arsenal's first team coach

Arsene Wenger has been at the helm of Arsenal since 1996, but it was in 2003 that he probably made his biggest mistake of his coaching career. The French manager had the chance to sign Cristiano Ronaldo from Sporting after watching him play in June of 2003, but his indecision and hesitancy led to Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United anticipating him on that very same summer...

What if Cristiano Ronaldo had joined Arsenal in the summer of 2003, instead of being lured to Manchester United following his stellar performance in a friendly against the Red Devils. It was Arsene Wenger himself who admitted that Arsenal got very close to bring Ronaldo to play for the Gunners in June of 2003, after having watched him play for the U-20 Portuguese National Team in the Toulon Tournament. Due to some hesitation on Wenger's side though, the deal didn't move forward and the 18-year old boy from Madeira ended up landing in Manchester instead, where he would sign a contract with United after the club agreed to pay a transfer fee of around 12.25 million pounds.

Cristiano Ronaldo - Remembering his first years with Manchester United:

The talk occurred during a media event for Arsenal's official smartphone sponsor, Huawei, and it was there that Arsene Wenger agreed to answer a few questions made by the fans.

Wenger: "My biggest regret throughout my football coaching career was not having signed Cristiano Ronaldo when I could... We got very close to wrap up the deal, but unfortunately we didn't move in time and he ended up signing for Manchester United. That's something that obviously still hurts today", started by confessing the 64-year old manager.

A good proof that Ronaldo was indeed very close to becoming a Gunner in 2003, is that the Portuguese star even had a shirt and a number reserved for him in London. In 2003 and again, according to Arsene Wenger, Ronaldo even did a tour on Arsenal's training ground in Hertfordshire and it was in the club's facilities that he was given a number 9 shirt with his name already printed on the back...

Cristiano Ronaldo wearing a Arsenal shirt

Apparently, however, an agreement between Arsenal and Sporting CP wasn't reached only because the two clubs had distant positions in regards to Ronaldo's transfer fee. The funniest in all this is that the fee Arsenal was being asked to sign Cristiano Ronaldo was in fact 3 times lower (around 4 million pounds) than what Manchester United ended up paying for him a couple months later (12.25 million pounds).

Wenger: "I did realize Cristiano Ronaldo had an exceptional talent back then, but no one could have predicted that he would become the kind of player he is today. The only thing we may have missed when scouting him on that Toulon tournament in 2003, was his capability to easily score goals. He was definitely already standing out from the rest in that summer, but he wasn't scoring goals yet and he didn't even use to get himself inside the box", revealed the Arsenal manager in an interview granted to the club's official site in 2008, shortly after Cristiano Ronaldo had won his first FIFA Ballon d'Or.

But if Cristiano Ronaldo is Wenger's biggest regret when it comes to players he didn't sign, who does the Frenchman rate as his best signing ever? Thierry Henry? Surprisingly not...

Wenger: "One of the signings that most pleased me was Lauren. It's all about spotting a talented player when everyone else seems to miss it and that's what happened in this case. Lauren was a right midfielder who I ended up playing as a right-back and he was part of the "Invicibles" team. That's the name that was given to our squad from 2003-04, which won the English Premier League without losing a single game", remembered the former AS Monaco coach.

Arsene Wenger tried to sign Cristiano Ronaldo to Arsenal, in 2003

Cristiano Ronaldo next game for Real Madrid will be against Deportivo La Coruña, in the 4th fixture of La Liga, on September 20. In the meanwhile, you can watch Deportivo La Coruña vs Real Madrid, Levante vs Barcelona, Manchester City vs Chelsea, Aston Villa vs Arsenal, and Hamburger vs Bayern Munchen, all matches provided from our soccer live streaming pages.

Real Madrid next game:
Deportivo vs Real Madrid
kick-off time (20-09-2014):

Jakarta (Indonesia) | GMT+7: 21:00
(Madrid) | GMT+2: 16:00
Portugal and England (Lisbon/London) | GMT+1: 15:00
Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) | GMT-3: 11:00
New York (United States) | GMT-4: 10:00
Los Angeles (United States) | GMT-7 07:00
Beijing (China) | GMT+8: 22:00

Sources: / / / /

Cristiano Ronaldo in Manchester United, in 2003

Arsene Wenger in 1996, in his first season with Arsenal FC

Cristiano Ronaldo celebration for winning the Toulon tournament in 2003, with Portugal U-20

Cristiano Ronaldo in Portugal vs Japan, at the Toulon tournament of 2003

Cristiano Ronaldo playing in Portugal vs Argentina in the 2003 Toulon tournament

Cristiano Ronaldo shirtless in his first year as a Manchester United player, in 2003

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