Former Arsenal scout Damien Comolli has revealed the North London club were strongly interested in Cristiano Ronaldo in 2003 – but were unwilling to match Sporting Lisbon's asking price. The 31-year-old forward was an exciting prospect when the Gunners lined up a move for the player, yet Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger was reluctant to meet the Portuguese club's valuation and Ronaldo ultimately signed for Manchester United.
Comolli explained that Ronaldo was given a guided tour of Arsenal's training ground, as the club looked to close a deal for the then-teenager. The future World Player of the Year was even introduced to his one-time hero Thierry Henry, who later became a rival when Ronaldo signed for United.
"He came to the training ground twice. No-one knows that," Comolli told RMC of Arsenal's interest in Ronaldo. "He met Thierry [Henry], who was his idol. And when it came to the transfer, we didn't have the money.
"A few months after, Manchester United had a partnership with Sporting, played a friendly in Lisbon. He killed them and Sir Alex Ferguson said, 'He has to go to United, he's coming home with us.'"
Two years ago, Wenger admitted that his failure to sign Ronaldo was one of the biggest regrets of his Arsenal tenure. "My biggest regret? I was so close to signing Cristiano Ronaldo, and not only did I not get him, he signed for Manchester United. So that of course still hurts today," the Arsenal boss said, according to ESPN.
Ronaldo signed for United as an 18-year-old winger and subsequently won three successive Premier League titles, a Champions League title, and a Fifa Club World Cup. He left United in 2009 to sign for Spanish giants Real Madrid, with whom he has won two more Champions League titles.
Arsenal, meanwhile, have not won a Premier League title since 2004 and an increasingly large section of the club's supporters have voiced their disapproval of Wenger's leadership in recent years.