Ronaldinho, one of football’s most illustrious names, never got to demonstrate his wizardry in the Premier League. Yet, it’s a little-known fact that back in 2003, Manchester United were on the brink of recruiting this South American marvel from Paris Saint-Germain.
At the age of 23, Ronaldinho had already made a mark in Europe, emerging as one of the most thrilling talents. He had been instrumental in the 2002 World Cup and was a player that Sir Alex Ferguson couldn’t resist. But when Barcelona stepped into the scene, Manchester United’s hopes of signing him evaporated.
The allure of Barcelona, a club that had been home to illustrious Brazilians such as Romario, Rivaldo, and Ronaldo, was irresistible to Ronaldinho. It was as if destiny had already etched Barcelona in his football journey.
At a time when Barcelona was facing a period of downturn, Joan Laporta and Sandro Rosell embarked on their presidential campaign promising to bring in superstars like David Beckham, Thierry Henry, or Ronaldinho.
Reflecting on those days, Ronaldinho said, “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.”
Costing €30million two decades ago, Ronaldinho is regarded as one of the best value-for-money transfers ever. He not only rejuvenated Barcelona but his effervescent spirit on the pitch also made him a global marketing phenomenon.
Manchester United legend Paul Scholes acknowledged the impact of losing out on Ronaldinho, admitting, “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.”
Yet, the disappointment of missing out on Ronaldinho led to a silver lining for Manchester United. To alleviate the void left by Beckham’s exit and to have a new no.7, they turned to a promising youngster named Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo’s illustrious career, including a record transfer, a return, and his spectacular performances, are a testament to this.
Moreover, Ronaldinho’s impact reverberates at Old Trafford through the admiration of their current star player, Bruno Fernandes. Fernandes said, “In my first few years, the player I think is the one everyone liked and always will like is Ronaldinho.”
While we can only fantasize about Ronaldinho’s samba skills lighting up Old Trafford and the Premier League, his influence on the game and his role in the beautiful game remain undeniable.