Former Juventus chief Gianni Di Marzio has revealed that the Serie A champions missed out on signing Cristiano Ronaldo as ex-Chile striker Marcelo Salas was reluctant to move in exchange.
The Portuguese star, then only 18 years old, caught the eye of Europe’s elite clubs during his debut season as a senior player at Sporting before he eventually made the world-famous move to Manchester United the following summer.
And Di Marzio, who was in charge of Juventus’ transfer dealings between 2001 and 2006, has claimed the now global football icon nearly ended up in Turin.
He was on a scouting mission to see Ricardo Quaresma, but that day Ronaldo started instead and his exceptional skills convinced former Old Lady chief to make a move for Cristiano.
“He was eighteen when I worked at Juventus,” Di Marzio told EFE (as quoted by Marca).
“I called my club and told them I’d seen someone who would be the best player in the world, obviously after Maradona,” he continued.
“I negotiated and brought Cristiano over to Turin in 2002 to sign for Juve, but Salas didn’t accept the terms of the swap.
“For just a few million euros, Salas didn’t want to leave and so Juventus lost out on Cristiano Ronaldo.
“His agent [Jorge Mendes] knows this story very well.”
The Portuguese superstar’s career could have followed a completely different path if he ended up playing in Italy rather than England, at Manchester United he won every trophy possible – winning three league titles, one Champions League, one Club World Cup, one FA Cup and two League Cups.
Ronaldo later joined Real Madrid in 2009 for a then world record transfer fee of £80 million.