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Ronaldo: I nearly joined Arsenal

The 25-year-old scored 84 league goals in 196 league games for the Red Devils before sealing a world record £80 million move to the Bernabeu last summer.

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However, speaking to GQ magazine, the former FIFA World Player of the Year admitted: “It’s true. I was an inch away from signing for Arsenal.

“I saw Arsene Wenger three times with my mother. It was very close to being a done deal.

“After I signed for United, she and I were sitting watching a Premier league game on television and she yelled out, ‘I know that guy – I liked him.’”

According to Ronaldo’s agent, Jorge Mendes, a clutch of high-profile clubs - including Arsenal and Manchester United - were keen to recruit the starlet from Sporting Lisbon.

But he said that it was Sir Alex Ferguson's side who showed the most interest and offered his client the best deal to bring him to England.

Mendes told GQ: “This is what really happened. Everyone wanted Cristiano - Real, Juventus, Barcelona. But only Arsenal and Manchester United attempted to take him from Sporting Lisbon that season. The others wanted to leave him at Sporting at least a year.

“But with United, everything was in place already, since an agreement had been reached the day before the match [a friendly between Manchester United and Sporting].”

Ronaldo is currently in South Africa preparing to lead Portugal at the World Cup finals in South Africa.

And the Real Madrid star revealed that he moved to Old Trafford instead of Emirates Stadium because they offered him the best deal.

“The reason I went to United was because they were the team that made me the best offer.

“I had never been to Manchester before, but what helped me was that my mother lived with me, my family visited a lot and I made friends with the players."

By Tom Parsons

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Gregg Davies is the Chief Sub Editor of FourFourTwo magazine, joining the team in January 2008 and spending seven years working on the website. He supports non-league behemoths Hereford and commentates on Bulls matches for Radio Hereford FC. His passions include chocolate hobnobs and attempting to shoehorn Ronnie Radford into any office conversation.