Inside Man Utd’s failed pursuit of Ronaldinho transfer as Sir Alex Ferguson opens up

Sir Alex Ferguson has shed light on the time Manchester United very nearly signed former World Cup winner and Ballon d’Or recipient Ronaldinho, as some of United players were sure a deal was done

Manchester United narrowly missed out signing Ronaldinho back in 2003

Sir Alex Ferguson has lifted the lid on the time Manchester United narrowly missed out on signing Brazilian legend Ronaldinho.

The former Ballon d’Or winner was one of the most flamboyant and iconic figures of his era, having carved out a remarkable career at the very top of the game. The Brazilian show-pony played for some of Europe’s most elite clubs in Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona and AC Milan, however United could very well have been among the names on that list.

Back in 2003, the Red Devils were set to lose David Beckham to Real Madrid and were in need of a new superstar. Step forward Ronaldinho. At the time the wing wizard was plying his trade with PSG, having emerged as one of the most highly-rated talents on the continent.

That summer, United were embroiled in a transfer tug-of-war over the 2002 World Cup winner, competing against the likes of Barcelona. With Beckham on his way out, signing Ronaldinho as his replacement for him was a no-brainer for Ferguson, who pushed to make the deal happen.

“The attempt to buy Ronaldinho reflected the fact that United have always sported talismanic players,” the legendary manager explained to GQ. “I was always hunting for that talent.

“My line of reasoning was: ‘We’re getting £25million for Beckham, and we’re getting Ronaldinho for £19m.’ For God’s sake, wake up. It was a steal.”

Have Your Say! Was Ronaldinho right to choose Barcelona over Manchester United? Tell us what you think here.






Sir Alex Ferguson has revealed United came close to signing Ronaldinho as David Beckham’s replacement

And it wasn’t only Ferguson who was intent on seeing Ronaldinho star for the Red Devils, the player himself was understood to be keen on a move. That’s according to the Brazilian’s compatriot Kleberson, who was also attracting interest from United at the time, and discussed the possibility of heading to Manchester with the PSG playmaker.

“Ronaldinho told me he was going to Manchester,” Kleberson revealed. “He kept saying: ‘Come to Manchester.’ I wanted to go, but I was reluctant because I didn’t speak English and United didn’t have any Portuguese speakers. But Ronaldinho persuaded me and I went to Manchester.”

However, while Kleberson did indeed put pen to paper and sign for United, Ronaldinho went back on his word. Despite expressing his attempt to join Ferguson’s ranks, a 23-year-old Ronaldinho then had his head turned.

After Sandro Rosell was elected to Barcelona’s board, the chief promptly set about pinching the Brazilian star from under United’s noses. Rosell explained in the film: “Ronaldinho’s brother met us both [Rosell and Joan Laporta] and Manchester United at a hotel.

“We were put into two separate rooms and he went from one to the other listening to and comparing offers. During negotiations, we reached a point which went out of reach of what Barca could afford.”

Pulling out all the stops, Rosell then spoke directly with Felipe Scolari, Brazil’s national team manager at the time, in order to encourage ‘Big Phil’ to play his part in persuading Ronaldinho to head to Spain. Scolari did as instructed.







Ronaldinho opted to snub United and join Barcelona instead
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Image:

AFP)

“I have [Ronaldinho] doubted his ability. He needed people that appreciated him for what he really was,” the former Chelsea boss confessed. “As a friend, I showed him the right path.”

And so, Ronaldinho snubbed United in favor of a move to Barcelona and never looked back. The Brazilian enjoyed a trophy-laden five seasons with the Catalan club, which included two La Liga titles, two Spanish Super Cup triumphs and a Champions League crown in 2006 – Barcelona’s first in fourteen years – as well as being awarded the 2005 Ballon d’ Or.

“The biggest clubs in the world are always attractive to players,” Ronaldinho himself admitted. “I spoke to a lot of people at that stage, my brother negotiated this. But when Sandro Rosell offered the chance of Barcelona…”

It wasn’t all bad news for United however. Having lost out on Ronaldinho, Ferguson’s would go on to sign a certain Cristiano Ronaldo that summer instead.

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