Former Arsenal scout Damien Comolli has revealed why the Gunners didn’t sign a 15-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo even though he visited the club’s training centre twice and spoke with Thierry Henry. 

 

Damien Comolli is best known as the former director of football at Liverpool, but the Frenchman embarked on his career in football with Arsenal in 1996. He helped discover the likes of Kolo Toure and Gael Clichy, but missed out on the biggest discovery of the new millennium.

Comolli has revealed that he brought a 15-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo to Arsenal in the year 2000. The Sporting Lisbon youth player even met club legend Thierry Henry, but the club were unwilling to fund a move for the Portuguese attacker.

“The first time I saw Ronaldo, it was at the Montaigu tournament, he was 15,” Comolli told French outlet SFR Sport, according to Goal. “He played against Japan before and I thought: ‘Who the hell is this?’

“At half-time, I called my contact in Portugal to which I said that I had seen a phenomenon. Since Thierry Henry, I had never seen anyone like that. He came to the [Arsenal] training centre twice. Nobody knows that. He met Thierry, who was his idol. But when it came to making the transfer, there was no money.”
Real Madrid's Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo holds his trophy of Best Men's player in Europe at the end of the UEFA Champions League Group stage draw ceremony, on August 25, 2016 in Monaco. (Photo credit: Valery Hache/AFP/Getty Images)

Real Madrid’s Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo holds his trophy of Best Men’s player in Europe at the end of the UEFA Champions League Group stage draw ceremony, on August 25, 2016 in Monaco. (Photo credit: Valery Hache/AFP/Getty Images)

Ronaldo has since gone on to become one of the greatest footballers of all time. The Portuguese captain has mesmerized fans for more than a decade now, winning the Champions League, Premier League, La Liga and the European Championship as his country’s captain.

Arsenal have developed a reputation of narrowly missing out on players that have gone on to become world class footballers. Ronaldo is among a litany of players who were almost signed by the Gunners. Others include the likes of Yaya Toure, Angel di Maria, and most famously, a 16-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

The Gunners frugality has often been criticized by fans and pundits, with manager Arsene Wenger citing the construction of the new stadium as a major drain on their finances. The club spent close to £95 million this past summer though and will be hoping to mount a serious title challenge this time around.