Written By Onyeka Daniel
In the world of football, the rivalry between two of the greatest players to have played the beautiful game of soccer, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi may not be complete without mentioning the influence of one legendary Brazilian midfielder, Ronaldinho.
Messi, played with Ronaldinho at Barcelona and eventually took over the number 10 jersey at the club, but he didn’t seem to have had a direct influence on Ronaldo. It has now been revealed that Manchester United did actually go for the signing of Cristiano Ronaldo after narrowly missing out on the signing of Ronaldinho.
Of course the mercurial Brazilian needs no introduction, especially to EPL fans, from that magical toe-poke goal at Stamford Bridge to his sublime free-kick at Fratton Park, Ronaldinho did enough in England to be noticed even by the most sceptical fan. But the Brazil legend, one of football’s great entertainers, never graced the Premier League – much to England’s regret and possibly goalkeeper David Seaman’s delight.
Back in 2003, though, there was an actual chance the South American superstar would sign for a Premier League club when Manchester United tried to buy him from Paris Saint-Germain. In fact, they were just 48 hours from landing a 23-year-old Ronaldinho, who had already earmarked himself as one of Europe’s most exciting players, lit up the 2002 World Cup, knocked England out, and manager Sir Alex Ferguson was obsessed.
There weren’t many clubs who could outspend the Red Devils in the transfer market back then, but it was game over as soon as Barcelona got involved. With a fierce tradition of eccentric Brazilians, Romario, Rivaldo, Ronaldo, it seems like a matter of time before Ronaldinho will follow in their footsteps to move to the Nou Camp. With Barca slowly losing their relevance in Spain and Europe (to Real Madrid), Joan Laporta and Sandro Rosell led their bid for the club’s presidency by promising one of three superstar signings: David Beckham, Thierry Henry, or Ronaldinho.
Upon election, the new president and vice president failed to lure Henry from Arsenal and lost Beckham to Real Madrid, so they nicked Ronaldinho from United’s grasp at the last minute and unveiled him on 20 July, 2003. The Brazilian recalled: “It almost happened with United. It was a matter of 48 hours, but Rosell had told me way before I got the offer: ‘If I become Barca president, will you come?’ I said yes.
“It was only a matter of details with United when Rosell called to say he was going to win the election there. And I had promised to him that I’d play for Barca.” At €30million, huge money 20 years ago, Ronaldinho is still one of the greatest bargains in transfer history. Not only did he bring the glory days back to Barcelona almost single-handedly, his infectious joy on the pitch made him the most marketable, as well as the most talented, player on the planet by an absurd distance.
So good was he in his full form “Prime Ronaldinho was phenomenal. He made his opponents look like children,” Zlatan Ibrahimovic once said. According to United legend Paul Scholes, the blow of missing out on Ronaldinho was not lost on the players. Scholes once said: “I remember two or three that were possibly coming. “I think the one that stands out is Ronaldinho.
“He was away on pre-season and we were as close as announcing him and giving him a number, but I think he ended up changing his mind at the last minute and signing for Barcelona. “It’s strange really because we played Barcelona on that pre-season tour. “We were all excited, Ronaldinho, what a player! I think he was coming from PSG at the time and we were all going to get to play with him and he’s going to bring something special.
“Almost like what Eric Cantona brought to the team. Then, three days later, we’re playing against him and all trying to kick him because he didn’t sign for us. “It was disappointing but I was lucky enough to play with some great players and he’d have just been another unbelievable player I’d had played with, but it just never happened.” It wasn’t all bad for United when they missed out on Ronaldinho, however.
Still desperate to soften the blow of Beckham’s departure and bring a new no.7 to Old Trafford, they signed this young bloke called Cristiano Ronaldo a few weeks later. In a storied career, Ronaldo became a legend, left in a record move, returned some years later and then set the place on fire. And the legendary career of CR7 isn’t Ronaldinho’s only legacy at Old Trafford, he also inspired their best player today: Bruno Fernandes.
The midfielder said: “In my first few years, the player I think is the one everyone liked and always will like is Ronaldinho. “For me, he is the player with the capacity to take you and put you in front of the TV, and you will stay for hours. For hours! “Because he had that energy and happiness. He was happy in everything he did.
“You enjoy it when you see guys playing like that, so for the first few years Ronaldinho was my favourite player.” So like the entire world of football, United have plenty to thank Ronaldinho for. Even Blackburn Rovers tried to bring the former Barcelona and Milan forward to these shores at one point.
The agent of Manchester United target has poured cold waters on reports that his client has agreed a deal with the club over a move to the Old Trafford. The agent representing Fiorentina midfielder Sofyan Amrabat confirms he expects a transfer this summer, but warns talk of a Manchester United deal is premature.
‘Quite a few clubs are Interested.’ The midfielder started pre-season training yesterday and as a result is working separately on fitness exercises rather than preparing for tomorrow’s friendly against Red Star Belgrade. Reports in Morocco suggested a deal was already done with Manchester United, while Sportitalia are confident the clubs will be able to reach an agreement for circa €23m plus bonuses to reach the €30m asking price.
However, his agent Mahmoud El Boustati told Voetbal Primeur that the situation is not quite so clear-cut. “Quite a few clubs are interested in Sofyan. It is now a matter of making the right choice. He is still just a Fiorentina player and he reported to Fiorentina on Monday.” Atletico Madrid have also been linked, while Barcelona had been close in January, but were only prepared to take him on loan with an option to buy rather than on a permanent basis.
It Is widely expected that Amrabat will be leaving the Stadio Franchi this summer, having shot to fame at the 2022 World Cup with Morocco reaching the semi-finals. “If something interesting comes up, Sofyan is open to the next step, and that goes for Fiorentina too. There are two, three clubs that he is open to.” When asked if a summer exit was going to be on the cards, the agent confessed “we’ll assume that.” The representative did deny any ‘concrete’ offers from Saudi Arabia.
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