Manchester United, a Helicopter and the Best Player in the World.
As part of this week’s Transfer Special podcast, some friends of the site were asked to share their memories of great transfer rumours from the past. The brilliant Tricia replied with her memories of when United were a helicopter away from signing the best player in the world.
Your question about memorable transfers sagas and rumours over the years got me thinking about July 2003 when we waited on tenterhooks for news that we had landed Ronaldinho from PSG. We were flush with cash from the Beckham transfer and our offer placed side by side with the lower offer from a cash poor and faltering Barcelona, gave Reds a fantastic buzz of optimism that the deal would be made. I recall being absolutely elated about bringing a player the class of the Brazilian to Manchester United. I was sure with Ronaldinho in the side to partner Ruud, another European Cup was only a season away, two at the most (far too long to wait, anyway, in my opinion, since the last CL triumph of 99, for a club the stature of United. I was still smarting pretty bad from the 2001-02 and 2002-03 CL campaigns, and the puzzling disappointment that was Veron.)
Even Ferguson in his press conferences before the 2003 summer tour was bubbling with excitement at the prospect of the signing, and it seemed a sure thing. Almost as an afterthought, he threw in the name of Kleberson, whom, if I recall at the time, was a Leeds target. United took off for a summer tour in America, positive that they had their man only to land on this side of the pond to the news that he had accepted Barcelona’s offer. Devastation. Anger! Confusion!
I remember one of the tabloids saying that the deal breaker had been that Ronaldinho wanted his own helicopter to travel from Manchester to London for his entertainment! LOL, well, we were reaching for excuses for why it had gone wrong, I guess. So bloody disappointed. So, it was not to be. Today, I looked at Red Cafe threads from that week, and read comments like, we should have gone for Defoe or Joe Cole or Damien Duff with the Beckham money.
Well hindsight is a fine thing, obviously, but what I remember from that summer is that we dared to dream that one of the very very best players on the planet wanted to play for US. I think back to that August when Ferguson unveiled Kleberson alongside a pimply 18 year old Cristiano Ronaldo, to join new signees Eric Djemba-Djemba, David Bellion and Tim Howard. There was our Beckham windfall. My God, the old man did make some blunders but of course, when he got it right, as in Cristiano, he really got it right. But I still wonder about what would have been if Ronaldinho had deigned to wear the red shirt. We would have had him at his peak, ah jaysus, what a wonder it would have been.
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