Former Arsenal co-owner and vice-chairman David Dein has revealed which player he most regrets missing out on.
The Gunners have infamously come close to signing many world-class players over the years, only to miss out for a variety of reasons, though how true some of the reported cases are remains to be seen.
Notable names that supposedly nearly moved to Highbury and the Emirates over the last two decades include N’Golo Kante, Kylian Mbappe, Luis Suarez, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Gareth Bale, Yaya Toure, Ronaldinho, and Lionel Messi.
But there is one name that stands out the most, given not only the player’s quality and how close Arsenal came to signing them, but for the fact that they joined one of the club’s biggest rivals.
‘I was asked by our chief scout if I would go with him to see a young boy playing for the Portugal under-18s and he was only 16,’ Dein, who was at Arsenal from 1983 to 2007, told Sky Sports.
‘You can probably imagine who that young player was. It was Cristiano Ronaldo.
‘The following day Manchester United came and blew us out of the water but these things happen.’
United signed Ronaldo from Sporting Lisbon in 2003 for £17million, the most expensive fee for a teenager at the time, after the forward had starred against the Red Devils in a pre-season friendly.
The rest, as they say, is history, with Ronaldo going onto become one of the greatest footballers of all time, winning seven league titles, five Champions Leagues, the European Championship, and five Ballon d’Ors.
Legendary Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger agrees with Dein, having previously opened up about the agony of missing out on the Portuguese superstar.
‘The obvious player [that we missed out on] that comes to mind is Ronaldo,’ Wenger told Arsenal’s official website back in 2018.
‘He was here with his mother, and we were very close. Then United came in and they had Carlos Queiroz at the time, who was their coach. United played against Sporting Lisbon and Ronaldo was outstanding and they signed him.
‘You could imagine at the time what it would have been like to have Thierry Henry and Ronaldo together. That would certainly have changed a little bit the history of my stay here as well.’
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