In a revelation that echoes through football history, former Manchester United star Rio Ferdinand discloses the transfer saga that resulted in United signing Cristiano Ronaldo from Sporting Lisbon back in 2003.
However, it was during the aftermath of a failed attempt for the club in signing Ronaldinho from Paris Saint-Germain. The twist of fate led to the acquisition of Cristiano Ronaldo, altering the course of footballing destinies.
Ferdinand reveals the captivating tale surrounding the entire series of events.
The ‘Almost’ Arrival of Ronaldinho
Manchester United's pursuit of Ronaldinho was a well-documented fact during that time, with Sir Alex Ferguson being an admirer of the World Cup winner for his exceptional skills, who was then plying his trade at PSG.
Ronaldinho ended up signing for Barcelona, which left, according to Ferdinand, Sir Alex completely ‘devastated’.
Speaking on The Obi One podcast, the 45-year-old said:
"I remember when Cristiano Ronaldo signed we went on tour to Lisbon and he was actually lucky that we signed him. It was only on the disappointment of not signing Ronaldinho that summer."
"I remember we were going to sign Ronaldinho but he chose to leave PSG for Barcelona. The manager was absolutely devastated. Then on the tour he went to Sporting Lisbon to open the stadium, Cristiano Ronaldo plays and the rest is history."
Sir Alex's Devastation and CR7's Emergence
Sir Alex Ferguson’s emotional response to missing out on Ronaldinho and the disappointment led to the subsequent turn of events that shaped the destiny of the club as well as for the teenager who joined United, named Cristiano Ronaldo.
Ronaldo was coming through the ranks in the Sporting Academy and was deemed one of the best young talents in world football.
Reminiscing about the game, Ferdinand was all in praise of Ronaldo, the 18-year-old youngster, who gave a tough time to the United defence during the pre-season match against Sporting Lisbon.
"He[John O’Shea] was in bits, and he was sitting there panting. We were telling him to get closer to Ronaldo, and he couldn't even answer us. To be fair, me, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt were standing there, going 'this kid's unbelievable, we've got to sign him',"- the Englishman continued
"We got on the coach, and we were delayed for about an hour and a half, and then they said they were doing a deal to sign Ronaldo now."
The Butterfly Effect: Ronaldo's Impact
Under the guidance of Sir Alex, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner spent six years at Old Trafford, winning three Premier League, one Champions League and one Ballon d’Or between 2003 and 2009 when he eventually left for Real Madrid.
He signed for the Los Blancos for a then-world-record fee of £80 million and left The Theatre of Dreams as a legend. The Portuguese maestro scored 118 goals in 292 matches during his first spell at United.
Ronaldo's Return: A Full-Circle Moment
Ronaldo's second term with the Red Devils lasted two-and-half years from the summer of 2021 to December 2023, when the United icon made instant impact upon his return but eventually the fallout with manager Erik ten Hag resulted in the club and player mutually agreeing to terminate his contract.
Featuring in 346 games, scoring 145 goals and providing 64 assists across all competitions for Manchester United, Ronaldo left a legacy that was initiated by the ‘missed’ transfer of Ronaldinho ultimately coming a full circle.