Arsene Wenger recalls lunch with Cristiano Ronaldo over Arsenal transfer

Arsene Wenger has revealed that Cristiano Ronaldo “had the shirt of Arsenal ” before competing a U-turn and joining Manchester United.

Back in 2003, a young Ronaldo was one of the most highly-sought after players in European football.

United would ultimately win the race for the Portuguese superstar, with the £12.25million fee making him, at the time, the most expensive teenager in English football history.

And in six years at Old Trafford, Ronaldo scored more than 100 times, developing into one of the most feared attacking players in the world.

But Wenger has admitted that he was destined to join the Gunners until an 11th hour change of plans saw him move to United.

Asked for players he regretted not signing, he told the Guardian: “Oof! I would say there is not one player, there are 50!

“On the other hand, maybe the closest [to that] was Cristiano Ronaldo, when he signed for Man United. We had an agreement with Sporting and Man United took Carlos Queiroz as assistant coach, and they just outbid us quickly and took Ronaldo.

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“But we had an agreement basically. He had the shirt of Arsenal, I had lunch with him and his mother at the training ground!

“It’s one example but there were so many. The history of a big club is full of missed great players!”

Ronaldo’s name is on the long list of world class players that were almost signed by Wenger during his tenure at the club.

Along with the Juventus star, Lionel Messi, Jadon Sancho, Yaya Toure, Luis Suarez and many others make up an extensive list of near misses for the legendary manager.

Arsenal are on to their second manager following Wenger's retirement in 2018, but he is backing Mikel Arteta to win the club’s first title in more than 15 years.

He added: “Now we have Mikel Arteta in charge, why should we not do it? A club is about identity. Identity is about values and values are about the people who carry these values. And so it’s important there is a continuity on that front for me.”

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