Paul Scholes has claimed Ronaldinho was just days away from joining Manchester United in 2003 – with a squad number even lined up – before the Brazilian completed a transfer to Barcelona.
Like many football lovers, Sir Alex Ferguson was a big fan of the South American playmaker and it was well-documented at the time how close he came to joining the Reds from Paris Saint-Germain, prior to the 2003/04 season.
In the end, 23-year-old Ronaldinho opted to join Spanish side Barcelona and just weeks later United captured a teenage prospect by the name of Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese famously adopted the iconic no.7 shirt and became a club legend, but would he have been signed if Ronaldinho had earlier that summer?
Regardless, the saga played out well for everybody and Scholesy’s memories provide a fascinating insight into how Ronaldinho almost joined what was already a mouth-watering attack at Old Trafford.
“I remember two or three that were possibly coming,” Scholes recalled on the BBC’s Savage Social podcast earlier this week.
“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.”
Speaking to FourFourTwo magazine back in 2015, while answering questions submitted by readers, Ronaldinho opened up on the 2003 transfer saga and explained how he had wanted to keep a promise to the incoming Barcelona president, Sandro Rosell.
“It almost happened with United,” The World Cup winner is quoted.
“It was a matter of 48 hours, but Sandro 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.”