Arsenal had the chance to sign Cristiano Ronaldo when he was at Sporting Lisbon but the Gunners stalled on finalising the deal and that allowed Manchester United to snap him up, according to agent Jorge Mendes, reports the Daily Mail.

The long period of indecision on Arsenal's part allowed their rivals to conduct their own investigations and when they found just how talented the youngster was (they played Lisbon in a pre-season friendly in 2003, where the striker scored twice to beat Sir Alex Ferguson's side 3-1) the Red Devils' players and manger were impressed enough to push the signing through.

The rest is history - United signed him and at Old Trafford Ronaldo developed into one of the best players in the world, before moving to Real Madrid for £80 million in 2009.

"I remember what happened to Ronaldo at Arsenal," the newspaper quoted Mendes as saying, "They watched him nine or ten times and when everything seemed decided, then Manchester United played at the inauguration of the Alvaladze Stadium (Sporting Lisbon) and the players themselves urged Ferguson to buy him."

"Nani was also followed by Tottenham and Arsenal, but as I say, who sleeps in business loses," Mendes added.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger had also admitted that the Gunners were very close to signing the Portuguese forward but the deal fell through because a price could not be agreed with Sporting Lisbon.

"I had Ronaldo at the training ground," quoted Wenger, "I showed him around and I gave him a shirt. It had got his name on the back. But in the end it was a question of the amount of transfer fee between the two clubs. Of course, he has proved to be a bargain [at £12.25 million]. But the price that we discussed was in fact much lower, it was divided by three."

Wenger also thinks United's relationship with former Portuguese coach Carlos Queiroz played a vital part in the deal going the Manchester club's way.

"Also Manchester United had a partnership agreement with Lisbon and Carlos Queiroz knew him well. Since then they have signed Anderson and Nani from Portugal because of Queiroz. It's like I can sign players from Franc because I know them well. I wanted him to be here, but the most important thing is he made a career. He went to Man United and did that," Wenger added.

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