The 2002 World Cup winner, now 40 and working as an academy coach at Philadelphia Union, revealed that Leeds United were also in the hunt to sign him, but he chose Old Trafford in 2003 as he believed that Ronaldinho was joining too.
“There were two clubs interested in signing me: Manchester United and Leeds," Kleberson explains in the January 2020 issue of FourFourTwo, out in shops on Tuesday.
“It was an easy choice, but there’s a funny story about it, too. When [Manchester] United’s interest in me was confirmed, I was with the national team in France for the FIFA Confederations Cup. I can remember it clearly: I was with Ronaldinho and his brother/agent, Assis. Ronaldinho said, “They want to sign both of us.” I said, ‘OK, let’s go, then!’
“I was so glad that he would be coming with me. I went back to Brazil and kept negotiating with United, but then Ronaldinho fooled me and went to play in the warm weather at Barcelona! He sent me to Manchester.
“That’s a joke between us until today. He knows that he owes me one.”
The Brazilian midfielder lasted two seasons at Old Trafford, making 30 appearances in all competitions and scoring twice.
He left Old Trafford in the summer of 2005 to join Besiktas, and tells FFT that not continuing in the Premier League is his main career regret.
“If I could have changed something in my career, I would have asked to join another English team on loan instead of going to Turkey,” he says. “I think I was improving when I left the club, but I could have showed my real potential if I’d been on loan in the same country.
“Honestly, though, my wife and I remember our days in Manchester with great affection and we miss them. There were things we could have done differently which would have changed things, but we were very young back then and hadn’t lived away from Brazil before.”
Read the full interview with Kleberson in the January 2020 issue of FourFourTwo magazine, out in shops and available digitally from Tuesday, December 17. Our belting awards special features a return of our 100 Best Players in the World list, plus exclusive interviews with Megan Rapinoe, Brendan Rodgers, Santi Cazorla, Vincent Kompany, Gilberto Silva, Teemu Pukki, Wesley and many more. We also find out how Lyon Feminin became the most dominant side in world football, remember a mad decade of fun and visit Japan to find out more about their very own Barcelona-lite, Vissel Kobe.
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