Former Arsenal boss on his decision not to sign World-Class No.7 striker
Former Arsenal co-owner and vice-chairman David Dein has claimed which player he most regrets missing out on.
The North London giants have infamously come close to adding many world-class players over the years, only to miss out for a variety of reasons, though how true some of the reported cases remain to be seen.
Notable names that supposedly nearly moved to Highbury and the Emirates over the last two decades include Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Gareth Bale, Yaya Toure, Ronaldinho, N’Golo Kante, Kylian Mbappe, Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi.
However, there is one name that stands out the most, given not only the player’s quality and how close the Gunners came to adding them, but however, for the fact that they joined one of the team’s biggest rivals.
‘I was asked by our chief scout if I would go with him to see a young boy playing for the Portugal under-18s and he was only 16,’ Dein, who was at Arsenal from 1983 to 2007, told Sky Sports.
‘You can probably imagine who that young player was. It was Cristiano Ronaldo.
‘The following day Manchester United came and blew us out of the water but these things happen.’
The Red Devils signed Cristano Ronaldo from Sporting Lisbon in 2003 for £17million, the most expensive fee for a teenager at the time, after the attacker had starred against the Red Devils in a pre-season friendly.
The rest, as they say, is history, with Ronaldo going onto become one of the greatest footballers of all time, winning seven league titles, five Champions Leagues, the European Championship, and five Ballon d’Ors.
Legendary Arsenal head-coach Arsene Wenger agrees with Dein, having previously opened up about the agony of missing out on the Portuguese striker.
‘The obvious player [that we missed out on] that comes to mind is Ronaldo,’ Wenger told Arsenal’s official website back in 2018.
‘He was here with his mother, and we were very close. Then United came in and they had Carlos Queiroz at the time, who was their coach. United played against Sporting Lisbon and Ronaldo was outstanding and they signed him.
‘You could imagine at the time what it would have been like to have Thierry Henry and Ronaldo together. That would certainly have changed a little bit the history of my stay here as well.’