Former Juventus Sporting Director Gianni Di Marzio has revealed that the club were very close to signing Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo.

According to Marca, Di Marzio confessed that the club had agreed terms with both Sporting Lisbon and and Ronaldo himself but the deal fell through at the last minute. Ronaldo was only 18 at the time but Di Marzio says he was already convinced that the Portuguese legend would become the best player in the world.

The deal involved a swap with Sporting Lisbon involving Cristiano Ronaldo and Marcelo Salas. Di Marzio says Ronaldo even arrived in Turin to talk to the club but in the end, Salas refused to go through with the deal and Juventus ended up missing out.

“He was eighteen when I worked at Juventus,” Di Marzio said. “I called my club and told them I’d seen someone who would be the best player in the world, obviously after Maradona.”

“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.”

Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo receives the Golden Ball trophy after winning the Club World Cup football final match between Kashima Antlers of Japan and Real Madrid of Spain at Yokohama International stadium in Yokohama on December 18, 2016. (Photo by Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images)

Better than Maradona? (Photo by Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images)

Juventus will definitely place this up there with one of their biggest regrets as Ronaldo has since gone on to become one of the greatest players in the history of football, with the only argument remaining that of who is better – Ronaldo or Lionel Messi.

The forward went on to join Manchester United in a £12.24 million deal – a figure which, at the time, made him the most expensive teenager in British football history. He went on to win 3 English Premier League titles and a Champions League trophy during his time in Manchester and quickly established himself as a club legend.

He also won his first Ballon D’or at United and has since won 3 more taking it to a total of four – the highest for a European player in the history of the award. Ronaldo also won the inaugural Best FIFA Men’s Player award last year.

His move to Real Madrid in 2009 for a fee of £80 million made him the most expensive player in the world at the time and he has quickly become the club’s all-time highest goalscorer and a club legend, having helped the side to a La Liga title and 2 Champions League trophies.

Juventus are only the latest in a long line of clubs that have claimed to have been close to signing Ronaldo. Arsenal most notably had the player in London and even had a jersey with his name on it made, before missing out to Manchester United.

Even former Barcelona president Joan Laporte recently admitted that the Catalans themselves were close to signing Ronaldo but eventually missed out as they were not willing to pay as much as Manchester United were.

Ronaldo himself will have no regrets over how his career has panned out as he has won nearly every trophy a footballer could dream of bar the World Cup. The clubs who missed out on the Portuguese phenomenon, however, will definitely be wondering what might have been.

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