Recently adulation for Ryan Giggs has been more prevalent than ever after he achieved the marvellous feat of playing in his 1,000th game in professional football. In the end that game ended with bitter disappointment as Manchester United were dumped out of the Champions League in controversial circumstances against Real Madrid.
Despite the end result; up until the Nani red-card Giggs was putting in a master-class of a performance and at the age of 39 was shackling one of the greatest players of all-time at his peak in his tracks.
With the Welshman recently signing a new contract extension that will take him into his 40’s at Old Trafford an appreciation for the most decorated player in English football and Manchester United’s record appearance holder has certainly been apparent in recent weeks.
But there was a time when a certain section of fans would not have been sad to see the back of him. After a testimonial against Celtic to celebrate ten years at the club he struggled in the 2001-02 campaign and it was then that this option first became apparent.
Alvaro Recoba of Inter Milan.
At the time Recoba was one of Europe’s most mercurial and exciting talents. Just 25-years-old he was playing some of the best football of his career either as an attacking playmaker or from out wide on the left.
It was then that a long running transfer rumour regarding a swap between the two players first started.
It was a rumour that never seemed to fade away. After an abject performance against Blackburn Rovers in the League Cup semi-final of 2003 Giggs was booed off the pitch by a pocket of United fans. This again saw the Recoba option rear its head once again.
However Inter didn’t want him with the club's then technical director Gabriele Oriali claiming extraordinarily that Recoba was a better player than the United star:
"In the future of Inter, there is not Giggs because Recoba is perhaps better than the Welshman."
In 2005 Giggs again struggled for form; which culminated in this miss against Arsenal…
At that time people again doubted Giggs and many United fans felt it was time to move him on. However no Recoba option was explored futher.
For if United had of decided to make that swap back in 2003 they would have been landed with one of the most naturally gifted but also problematic footballers of the past 15 years.
For all his glorious technique and skill the Uruguayan remained a ‘maybe’ player. He suffered from severe knee injuries and battled with his weight and fitness throughout his career. There is little doubt that swapping the two would have been a huge error.
While Giggs has gone on to make history Recoba saw out his career in Europe with a spell in Greece before returning to Montevideo where he is now in the advent of his career with Nacional.
Just imagine what would have been if United had made this swap ten years ago…