Liverpool's Reaction To Missing Out On £4 Million Cristiano Ronaldo Deal Is Absolutely Priceless
Liverpool bosses Gerard Houllier and Phil Thompson "nearly choked" on their dinners when Cristiano Ronaldo was announced as a Manchester United player.
Ronaldo joined United in 2003 for £12 million from Sporting Lisbon and would go on to become one of the best players in world football.
But their bitter rivals on Merseyside were also interested in a deal and thought they'd agreed a £4 million transfer.
Thompson, who was Houllier's assistant at the time, told The Athletic: "I can still remember Tony's [Henry, football agent] exact words.
"It was all very nice and relaxed. It's £4 million and it can be paid over the four years of his contract, so £1 million a year. That seemed very reasonable.
"Then I asked about the salary and Tony told me it was £1 million-a-year, net."
However, United boss Sir Alex Ferguson would take notice of the Portuguese superstar after a stunning display for Sporting against the Red Devils in a pre-season friendly.
United quickly wrapped up a deal and it left the entire Liverpool hierarchy shaken.
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Thompson continued: "On the Tuesday morning, we were having lunch at the training ground and it came up on the yellow strap on Sky Sports, 'Manchester United have signed Cristiano Ronaldo for £12.2 million.'
"Gerard and myself almost choked on our food. I can remember Gerard jumping up and saying, 'What the hell has gone on there?'"
An £8 million fee was agreed and the player and his mother, Dolores, flew to London where they were introduced to Thierry Henry and other Arsenal stars.
Manager Arsene Wenger spoke to Ronaldo in his office and even promised him the shirt number he wanted at Arsenal: 28.
According to The Athletic's source: "It was as close to being done, without actually being done, as it possibly could be."
Wenger would regard failing to sign Ronaldo as one of the biggest regrets in his managerial career.
At United, Ronaldo won three Premier League titles, the FA Cup and a Champions League before joining Real Madrid in 2009.
You have to wonder what could have been if he played at Anfield over Old Trafford in his early years.
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