Arsenal nearly signed a £12m star who would became worth £99m & better than Henry

Arsenal have seen an abundance of talent come and go through the years, with a host of stars gracing the pitch at both Highbury and the Emirates.

From the stars of Arsene Wenger’s Invincibles to the heroes in the making under Mikel Arteta, the Gunners have always maintained a high level of talent and glamour, despite form not always following suit in recent times.

Last season, it looked for a while that Arteta would be the first manager since Wenger’s unbeaten side of 2003/04 to lift the Premier League title, however, the north Londoners missed out by a narrow scale of five points by May.

Such progression turned attention back to the Emirates in a positive light after a number of seasons of mediocrity separated Arsenal from Europe’s elite as they were segregated from the top four.


With the youthful spark noticeable in north London, Arteta is attempting to uncover the next generation of icons, with the club’s latest answers to legends such as Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp pushing to reach the heights of those before them.

While Wenger delivered the Gunners some blockbuster signings during his 22-year tenure as manager, there were a few names that the Frenchman has revealed he missed out on signing, with one name being a pillar of world football; Cristiano Ronaldo.

Did Arsenal nearly sign Cristiano Ronaldo?

Rewind to 20 years ago, and Arsenal were just days away from signing 18-year-old Ronaldo from Sporting CP.

Speaking to Ian Wright via SPORTbible, Wenger revealed that he wished he signed Ronaldo before he joined Manchester United, with the Frenchman explaining that if the Gunners had been a “fraction quicker” the Portuguese starlet would’ve relocated to north London.

Ronaldo supported the claims during his interview with Piers Morgan in 2019, stating that he was “one step” from joining Arsenal as opposed to United as an unknown teen.

Why didn’t Arsenal sign Cristiano Ronaldo?

Manchester United beat everyone to swiping up the teen’s signature, with Sir Alex Ferguson’s side paying a fee of £12.24m for the youngster after eyeing him for months.

As relayed by the BBC back in 2003, Ferguson revealed that negotiations with Sporting over the youngster “accelerated” due to other clubs wanting to make a move for him, with it later coming to light that Arsenal were one of those interested.

At the time, the 13-time Premier League-winning manager dubbed his new arrival as “one of the most exciting young players” he’d ever seen, which in hindsight was a viable description of the player he unearthed.

How many goals has Cristiano Ronaldo scored?

20 years down the line and the world now knows Ronaldo as one of the greatest players to ever grace the game, being a five-time Ballon d’Or and Champions League winner during his illustrious career.

Along with his many accolades, the Portuguese marvel has a domestic goal-scoring tally of 722, as well as scoring 123 international goals so far for his country.

You won’t be surprised to hear that such a record surpasses the great Thierry Henry’s domestic tally of 360 and even Lionel Messi’s, albeit he is only one behind on 721 after moving to Inter Miami.

It’s taken the 38-year-old years of hard work and stellar maintenance to remain one of the best, with his continuous scoring streaks proving that he truly is one of the most luxurious talents to play the game.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s domestic record (via Transfermarkt)




Sporting CP




Manchester United




Real Madrid








Al-Nassr TBC




For Manchester United, the winger scored a total of 145 goals over his two spells in England, hitting his peak at Old Trafford between 2006 and 2009, before returning in 2021 on the other side of his career.

In the 2007/08 season, Ronaldo hit top form, scoring 31 Premier League goals in 34 appearances, as well as netting eight in the Champions League and three in the FA Cup, as it became crystal clear just how far his talents would go.

Branded as a “total genius” by FIFA member Sunday Oliseh, the Madeira-born forward made a £80m move to Real Madrid in 2009 as his journey took him down a path away from the scenes he had conquered in England.

It was in Madrid that the phenomenon cemented himself as one of the greats, scoring 450 goals in 438 appearances for Los Blancos, and forming a rivalry for the ages with former Barcelona sensation Lionel Messi.

After nine years in Spain, the Portugal international relocated to Italy, signing for Juventus in a mammoth €112m (£99m) deal, where he went on to score a further 101 goals in just 134 appearances in Turin.

The narrative of Ronaldo’s career is goals, with the insanely prolific forward needing barely a chance to put the ball in the net in every season of his journey, telling of what Arsenal could have had by getting to him before Ferguson.

What could Cristiano Ronaldo have offered Arsenal?

At the time of his arrival in England in 2003, it was a Premier League dynamic of Arsenal vs Manchester United, and Wenger vs Ferguson as the two managers went head-to-head year after year to challenge for the crown.


From 1996 to 2004, it was either the Red Devils or the Gunners that claimed the title, communicating just how fine the margins were between the two squads that the two legendary managers were conducting.

Arsenal went unbeaten in the 2003/04 campaign, which happened to be Ronaldo’s first season in England.

The method that Wenger’s side won the title made it almost irrelevant that the Frenchman had missed out on signing the youngster, however, it would prove to be costly in the years to come.

To this day, the Gunners haven’t touched the Premier League title since that formidable season, however, United went on to win it another five times, as well as winning the Champions League in 2008.


As touched upon, Ronaldo contributed to 50 goals in that season alone, scoring 42 and assisting eight in all competitions, suggesting the importance of his ability in Ferguson’s XI at that time.

At times, it was considered that if Ronaldo was on form, United were on form, with the Portuguese legend being the poster boy of Manchester at the time, giving Wenger a taste of what he could have had if he’d captured his signature.

What is Ronaldo doing now?

At the age of 38, the forward is sticking to what he knows best by scoring in Saudi Arabia, representing Al-Nassr in the Saudi Pro League.

Al-Nassr's Cristiano Ronaldo

The former United whiz called time on his career in Europe in January 2023 as he signed for the Middle Eastern outfit, where he has since scored 21 goals in 25 appearances.

Dwelling on the ‘what ifs’ that life entails is a negative way to stance your purpose, however, with reference to what Arsenal could have had in Ronaldo, the question will forever be a sore subject for Wenger.

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