Arsenal nearly signing Cristiano Ronaldo has been a favourite anecdote of Arsene Wenger’, and part of a long list of players the long-serving Arsenal boss has ‘almost’ signed. However, in The Sun today former Arsenal scout and Liverpool director of football Damien Comilli has added further detail to the story; claiming that Ronaldo visited Arsenal’s training ground on two occasions.
The Portuguese superstar moved to Manchester United from Sporting Lisbon for £12.24 million in the summer of 2003. Comilli was a trusted scout of Wenger’s during the Highbury years and went on to work for Spurs and Liverpool. Unsurprisingly, the problem with securing Ronaldo’s signature was a financial one with funds exceedingly tight ahead of the stadium move. Comilli said:
“The first time I saw Ronaldo, it was at the Montaigu tournament, he was 15. He played against Japan before and I thought: ‘Who the hell is this?’
“At half-time, I called my contact in Portugal to which I said that I had seen a phenomenon. Since Thierry Henry, I’ve never seen that.
“He came twice to the training centre. Nobody knows that. He met Thierry, who was his idol. But when it came to making the transfer, there was no money.
“Some months later, Manchester United made a partnership with Sporting, they played a friendly match in Lisbon. Sir Alex Ferguson said: ‘He must go to United’.”
The transfer window is fiendishly difficult to navigate, and there must be dozens of deals that almost go through but hit a snag at the last moment. Wenger has promised to reveal some of them when he gets around to writing his autobiography, which will be a fascinating read. In the 2003-4 season, in which Arsenal went unbeaten through a whole Premier League season, the club came within weeks of not being able to play the players wages as they waited for a knife-edge property deal to go through. The years prior to the stadium move were actually the most fraught financially, and that cost the Gunners the chance to sign the second best player in the world.
Elsewhere, Wenger has back striker Olivier Giroud to come back stronger after receiving criticism from France fans and Arsenal supporters alike. Giroud is currently out with a toe injury, and Wenger’s side have flourished with the more mobile and multi-faceted Alexis Sanchez in the center forward position. Nevertheless, Giroud could well prove a valuable plan B as the season progresses, and Wenger is certainly counting on him. Quoted in The Guardian, Wenger said:
“I am an admirer of Giroud because he has gone through some tough times and he bounces back,” Wenger said.
“When his back is to the wall, he has an answer every time. When I go into a big game, you always think: ‘I can rely on him.’ You know that when the competition starts, he will be with you.”
Finally, Alex Iwobi has been talking about the pride he feels at having made it at Arsenal. The 20-year-old has established himself as a first XI player, and with Sanchez being used centrally has made the left flank his own in recent months. Iwobi is a real all-rounder; he has the pace, trickery and youthful energy to excel out wide, but also the vision and awareness to play in central areas. On top of all that, the Nigerian played as a striker all through the age groups as a youth team player so has good finishing acumen. Iwobi said:
“I was looking at Hector [Bellerin] because he was someone who was near enough my age.
“I was looking at the way he did it and I thought maybe I’d have to go out on loan to get experience like he did.
“I looked up to a few guys and I wanted to do it like them but the fact I did it a different way, I’m proud of that.”
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