Back in 2002, the eye of former Tottenham Hotspur centre-forward Ronny Rosenthal – who, following his retirement from professional football, became a scout – was caught by a young 18-year-old forward at Sporting Lisbon, writes the FFC.
So impressed was Rosenthal with the youngster that the 58-year-old called Daniel Levy to suggest that Spurs send their own scouts over to watch him in action – something which the talent-spotter recalled in a recent interview with The Athletic.
“I saw Cristiano Ronaldo because I started going a lot to Portugal,” said the former Israel international. “I told clubs to come and watch him and recommended Ronaldo to Arsenal, Tottenham and others. They didn’t follow it up.”
However, a little over 12 months later, one English club did end up making a move for the teenager who went by the name of Cristiano Ronaldo – Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United.
Indeed, in the summer of 2003, the Red Devils parted with £12.24m in order to bring the versatile forward to Old Trafford, with the legendary United manager stating at the time of the youngster’s signing:
“We have been negotiating for Cristiano for quite some time, but the interest in him from other clubs accelerated in the last few weeks so we had to move quickly to get him.
“It was only through our association with Sporting that they honoured our agreement of months ago. He is an extremely talented footballer, a two-footed attacker who can play anywhere up front: right, left or through the middle.”
Since that time, Ronaldo went on to become one of the best players in the history of the game, with the five-time Ballon d’Or winner scoring a quite astonishing 692 goals, not to mention providing 231 assists, over his 927 appearances for the likes of Sporting, United, Real Madrid and Juventus – with 14 goals and six of these assists coming against Spurs, the most he has scored against any English side.
Furthermore, the 37-year-old – who has been sold for a total of £204.2m over the course of his career – has also bagged a remarkable 115 goals over his 186 outings for Portugal, returns that make him his country’s all-time top goalscorer, as well as the player who has scored the most professional goals in the history of the sport.
As such, while hindsight is a wonderful thing, it would perhaps be an understatement to suggest that Daniel Levy had a nightmare when failing to take a risk on the man who Eusebio claimed has “magic in his boots” and Pepe dubbed an “alien” back in 2002 – as the 60-year-old could well have landed Tottenham one of the greatest players the world has ever seen.