Man Utd beat Arsenal to Cristiano Ronaldo signing due to the Emirates Stadium
Arsenal missed out on signing a teenage Cristiano Ronaldo a year before Manchester United landed him due to plans to build the Emirates Stadium, according to his agent Jorge Mendes’ new biography.
The Gunners were in contention to sign the Portuguese superstar, then aged 17, from Sporting Lisbon. But the financial implications of building the new ground meant the north Londoners could not make an offer that was acceptable to Sporting.
In an extract from the book quoted by the Daily Telegraph, Mendes says: “There was a moment in which I really thought he was going to Arsenal. David Dein is a spectacular person but, with the construction of their stadium, they were left with very little money and it wasn’t possible.”
Instead, Arsenal were only able to offer a “small” amount to Sporting, though the book stops short of putting a figure on the Gunners’ bid.
Ronaldo ended up signing for United in a £12.25m deal a year later, but the Real Madrid man still recalls his trip to Arsenal, where he had previously been on trial for a week.
Interviewed for the Mendes book, Ronaldo recalls: “We were travelling by car and Jorge was calling us constantly telling me to hide so no one would see me. We went to a service station and I had to hide my face. I remember back then that Jorge was going crazy, those were Jorge’s craziest days.”
The book reveals that Sporting director of football Carlos Freitas held meetings with United, Juventus, Parma, Real Madrid and Arsenal about deals for Ronaldo.