Former Manchester United chief Peter Kenyon has spilled the beans as to why the Old Trafford club ended up signing Sporting Club de Portugal winger Cristiano Ronaldo, then 18, over Brazilian legend Ronaldinho, who signed for Barcelona that summer. There was plenty of speculation linking Ronaldinho to the Theatre of Dreams and United wanted to sign the player. But with hindsight, it is better that they signed Ronaldo as it is better to sign a young star on the way to brightness than to sign a bright star that was fading.
United signed Ronaldo for £12.24 million in the summer of 2003, after David Beckham left for Real Madrid for £25 million. Ronaldo donned the number seven shirt and quickly became the missing link in the team as he grew in stature at the Theatre of Dreams. Ronaldo spent six years at United before signing for Real Madrid himself, which was his dream and never hidden away for more than £80 million, an amount that was not reinvested in the squad that summer which saw United start to decline.
Ronaldinho was a Paris Saint-Germain player that summer, signing for the club in 2001. United were eventually priced out of a move for the player, who as sold to Catalan club Barcelona for £29 million and when you consider some transfers today can be double or triple that figure, it makes you realise how inflated transfer fees are in modern football. Ronaldinho was a snip at £29 million for Barcelona and what he achieved at the club will underline that – two La Liga titles, two Supercopa de España and one UEFA Champions League.
Kenyon was in charge of United for six year before leaving for Chelsea, which was a controversial decision as Kenyon had previously proclaimed himself as a lifelong Manchester United supporter. Kenyon left Chelsea back in October 2009, spending a little over six years at the London club. Recently, the businessman spoke to the Daily Telegraph and confirmed that United wanted to sign Ronaldinho, which was just one of many players who got away from United, which was great at this period for the club. Kenyon stated:
“We did try really hard for Ronaldinho. And in the end we offered what was a load of money even by our standards and there came a point…
“Getting the player just for the amount of money paid didn’t sit well at United.
“There was a decision that if he is right and we do want him we will pay because we could.
“It crossed the line and on reflection – and this is not about his ability – it turned out to be a great decision.”
When you look at what United could have had with Ronaldinho, and the fact that whilst at Barcelona he made a total of 207 appearances, scoring 94 goals and 71 assists at the club. Over the course of his career, the Brazilian legend made a total of 533 appearances, scoring 196 goals and 162 assists. On the other hand, Ronaldo at 18 was a better prospect. There was a chance that United, under the management of Sir Alex Ferguson, one of the greatest of his time, could help turn Ronaldo into a player of Ronaldinho’s calibre. This was achieved. At United, Ronaldo made a total of 292 appearances, scoring 118 goals and 69 assists. During his career, so far, he made made a total of 845 appearances, scored 633 goals and 223 assists. Winning the Champions League five times and the Ballon d’Or five times shows that United, having a hand in Ronaldo’s career, made the right decision.
Written by John Walker