Oh what could have been. Back in the summer of 2003, a blond-tipped teenager by the name of Cristiano Ronaldo was unveiled as Manchester United’s new number seven.
But, if Arsene Wenger had got his way, this little-known Portuguese winger would have been wearing the red of Arsenal instead.
“The obvious player [Arsenal missed out on] that comes to mind is Ronaldo. He was here with his mother and we were very close,” Wenger told the Independent last year.
But, 16 years on, Arsenal will be hoping they have finally made up for this most painful of near misses.
As reported by Goal, the North London giants have agreed to sign Gabriel Martinelli from FC Ituano for £6 million this summer. Like Ronaldo was back when United gave him David Beckham’s shirt, Martinelli is only 17. And, just to add to the intrigue, he recently had a trial at Old Trafford.
In quotes reported by Goal, Arsenal’s next highly-rated youngster has grown up admiring the player they famously failed to sign all those years ago.
"I play as an attacker, but not necessarily a forward. I consider myself more of the modern style, with speed and a lot of movement without the foot,” said the speedy Brazilian.
"I really like Cristiano Ronaldo, because I also don't like to play with my back to the defender holding the ball, as in the old fashion forward. But if I have to, I also know how to play like that."
Goal adds that Arsenal’s scouts have been very impressed by Martinelli’s composure in possession, the teenager having recently been named the Player of the Tournament after hitting six goals at the regional Campeonato Paulista competition.
Whether he can follow in Ronaldo’s footsteps, only time will tell.
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