Former Juventus sporting director, Gianni Di Marzio, has revealed that Cristiano Ronaldo was close to joining Juventus from Sporting Lisbon as a 17-year-old.

There was a lot of interest in Ronaldo after he broke into Sporting’s first team in the 2002/2003 season.

Many of Europe’s top clubs like Barcelona, Arsenal and Liverpool were all keen to snap up the Portuguese forward. But he eventually signed for Manchester United the following summer.

Speaking to EFE, Di Marzio, who was in charge of transfers at Juventus from 2001 to 2006, said: “When I was working for Juventus, I called Turin and said he was going to be the best player in the world, obviously behind [Diego] Maradona.

“I negotiated [a transfer] and brought Cristiano to Turin in 2002 to sign for Juventus. But [Marcelo] Salas did not accept the swap deal.

“For a few million euros, Salas did not want to go and he later ended up at River Plate. That is how Juventus lost Cristiano Ronaldo. [Ronaldo’s agent Jorge Mendes] knows this story very well.”

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