Rio Ferdinand revealed how Manchester United swiftly completed a move for a young Cristiano Ronaldo in detail during the summer of 2003.
August 6, 2003, was a day that neither Ferdinand nor Manchester United will ever forget as an 18-year-old Ronaldo left them stunned in a pre-season friendly against Sporting CP in Lisbon.
The teenager was already quietly gathering interest across Europe by the time he met United. But once Sir Alex Ferguson saw his incredible talents first-hand, the Scot pulled out all the stops to sign him.
And what Fergie wants, Fergie gets….
The United boss knew signing Ronaldo was pivotal after seeing him best some of the world’s most accomplished players in Portugal. His pace and dribbling skills literally tore John O’Shea to shreds. While Mikael Silvestre was left thanking God for not pitting him against Cristiano.
The funny thing was that none of the United players had even heard of Ronaldo before the match.
After losing 3-1 to Sporting that night, however, they urged Ferguson to sign the youngster after Barcelona beat them to signing Ronaldinho from Paris Saint-Germain.
“Yeah, I don’t think he fulfilled his potential, Cristiano,” Ferdinand joked to BT Sport.
“He started there and we arrived there coming back from America on tour, everyone was knackered, jetlagged etc.
“We got asked to play in it late and obviously got there, opened the stadium, and we came off that pitch and anyone who didn’t know about Cristiano Ronaldo before we got there definitely did by the time we left.
On this day in 2003, Man United completed a deal to sign Cristiano Ronaldo from Sporting CP for 12.24 million pounds
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“When we got to the stadium in the pre-match warm-up, it kind of got around and people were saying: ‘That kid there, he’s meant to be a superstar’.
“Baring in mind, we had missed out on signing Ronaldinho as well that summer, so we were still on the search for a superstar to come.
“We didn’t see it in the form of a young teenager but by the time the game finished all the players were sitting there saying to the manager: ‘When are we going to get him?’.”
Ferguson immediately sought a one-on-one meeting with Ronaldo and Sporting officials after the match, where he outlined his intentions for the winger.
A €19m deal was completed shortly afterwards, making Cristiano the world’s most expensive teenager at the time.
“We were sat on the coach after, delayed an hour, wanting to get home after a big tour,” continued Ferdinand.
“The manager and chief executive David Gill at the time were upstairs trying to do a deal to sign him.
“Got in straight away, great recruitment.”