Manchester United were 48 hours from completing one of the biggest transfers in Premier League history before a simple phone call was made.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s side were likely the only English club in 2003 with the lure and ability to sign someone regarded as one of the best players in the world.
Ronaldinho was leaving Paris Saint-Germain in that summer and The Reds were hours away from landing the Brazilian’s signature.
The then-23-year-old was one of the hottest talents around Europe and is particularly remembered in England for his unbelievably jaw-dropping free-kick goal against the Three Lions in the 2002 World Cup.
It was the player’s dream to play at the Camp Nou and with Joan Laporta and Sandro Rosell bidding for presidency at the Spanish club, they would promise one superstar addition to the squad: Ronaldinho, Thierry Henry, or David Beckham.
Ironically, it was United who had instead sold Beckham to Barca’s rivals Real Madrid, not for a lack of trying after initially agreeing a deal with Barcelona, however.
Henry could not be pulled away from Arsenal just yet, that would instead happen in 2007, and so Laporta and Rosell snatched Ronaldinho from United’s grasp.
Speaking of the transfer saga, Ronaldinho once 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.”
The Brazilian would go on to play 207 games for Barcelona, scoring 94 goals and assisting 70 times as he helped launch the club back to the top of European football.
After missing out on the star signing, Sir Alex Ferguson and United looked elsewhere to replace the departed Beckham and came to the conclusion that some skinny Portuguese winger from Sporting Lisbon, whom they played against in a pre-season game, was the answer. Cristiano Ronaldo.
Whatever happened to that guy, anyway…?
Manchester United told to buy ‘Kobbie Mainoo’s mentor’ amid transfer exit rumours
Marcus Rashford warned against “foolish” Manchester United move advised by legend
Omar Berrada’s first Manchester United task set to impact three players at Old Trafford
5 things learned as Manchester United defeat Burnley 2-0 (EFL Cup)
Player ratings: Manchester United 2-0 Burnley
How Lisandro Martinez made Manchester United World Cup history
Transfers2 days ago
Raphaël Varane to walk from Manchester United this summer after “huge” development
News3 days ago
Mason Greenwood sends Man United clear message after Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s comments
News2 days ago
Manchester United could make shock left-back decision after Alvaro Fernandez return ruled out
News2 days ago
Erik ten Hag hints at Manchester United start for Amad Diallo vs Fulham