Cristiano Ronaldo was all set to join Liverpool back in 2003 after agreeing to move to Anfield – but the Portugal talisman had other ideas and joined Manchester United men Bookmark Comments 4 Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson (R) with Manchester United’s striker Cristiano Ronaldo (L) at the training session at the Dragon stadium in Porto 24 February 2004. The training session is a day a head of the clash between FC Porto and Manchester United for the UEFA Champions League first group, knock out round, first leg. Ronaldo ended up at United where he enjoyed a trophy-laden career with the club (Image: NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP via Getty Images) Manchester Evening News logo – whatsapp community Get the latest MEN breaking news on WhatsApp Our community members are treated to special offers, promotions and adverts from us and our partners. You can check out at any time. More info Join us on WhatsApp Former Liverpool chiefs Phil Thompson and Gerard Houllier were left “almost choking” over their lunch as they discovered Cristiano Ronaldo had decided to join Manchester United instead of them. Back in 2003, Liverpool thought they had convinced the then prodigious talent Ronaldo to make a move to Anfield in a deal valued at a mere £4 million – equivalent to about £7 million today. Ronaldo was turning heads worldwide with his performances for Sporting Lisbon, and Liverpool were eager to bring him on board. Thompson previously reminisced about a meal he shared with football agent Tony Henry in Lisbon, where they appeared to iron out the details of Ronaldo’s transfer to England. Yet, this agreement never materialised, and the future five-time Ballon d’Or winner chose to sign with Liverpool’s arch-rivals, Manchester United instead. READ MORE: What Sir Alex Ferguson said to Cristiano Ronaldo after joining Manchester United READ MORE: Sir Alex Ferguson’s sword, training with Ronaldo and advice from Roy Keane Speaking with The Athletic in 2020, Thompson recounted: “I can still remember Tony’s exact words. It was all very nice and relaxed. It’s £4million and it can be paid over the four years of his contract, so £1million a year. That seemed very reasonable. Then I asked about the salary and Tony told me it was £1million a year, net.” He continued, detailing the moment of surprise: “On the Tuesday morning, we were having lunch at the training ground and it came up on the yellow strap on Sky Sports, ‘Manchester United have signed Cristiano Ronaldo for £12.2million’. Gerard and myself almost choked on our food. I can remember Gerard jumping up and saying, ‘What the hell has gone on there?'” Liverpool were unaware that Sir Alex Ferguson had been orchestrating a deal with the young Portuguese star after his impressive performance in a pre-season friendly against United. Liverpool’s loss would become one of United’s greatest gains as Ronaldo would emerge as one of the club’s most influential players of the new generation. Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United is presented with an award for scoring 700 goals by Ex Manchester United Manager Sir Alex Ferguson prior tod the Premier League match between Manchester United and Newcastle United at Old Trafford on October 16, 2022 in Manchester, England. Sir Alex Ferguson stole Ronaldo from under Liverpool’s noses (Image: Dan Mullan/Getty Images) During his initial stint with United, Ronaldo netted 118 goals, clinching three Premier League titles, two League Cups, an FA Cup, the Champions League and the Club World Cup. In 2009, Portugal’s icon bid farewell to Old Trafford and set off for Spain to join the esteemed Real Madrid, where he secured an impressive four Champions League titles along with two League titles, the Copa del Rey and Supercopa, two UEFA Super Cups and three FIFA Club World Cups. Ronaldo then turned his attention to Italy and inked a €100million contract with Juventus the highest ever for any Italian club at the time. He bagged the league title twice with Juventus and also claimed two Supercoppas and the Coppa Italia once. Try MUFC Pro NOW for free Subscribe to our brilliant app for the best way to enjoy the M.E.N’s unrivalled Manchester United coverage. No adverts, pop-ups or distractions – just our brilliant content presented in the best way possible. Comprehensive, round-the-clock coverage of the Reds, with agenda-setting breaking news and insight from Samuel Luckhurst and our authoritative team of United writers Exclusive content for subscribers New interactive elements including (coming soon) quizzes to test your United knowledge. Try MUFC Pro for a front-row seat to the action at absolutely no cost for the first month. You can get started by downloading our app here on iPhone, or here on Android. If you already have our app, click on the ”MUFC Pro’,’ Subscribe’ or ‘ Remove ads’ links. *Free trial auto renews at £19.99 annually unless cancelled. T&C’s apply. Ad-free indicates that you will not be shown standard display ad formats with the articles that you read, selected articles may contain commercial messages/affiliate links where contractually required. Then, in 2021, he embarked on the journey from Turin back to Manchester and once again graced the Old Trafford pitch where he achieved 800 career goals and scored 24 in total in a season that was largely disappointing for the club. Following a deadlock with the club and United boss Erik ten Hag, Ronaldo made his way to Saudi Arabia to join Al Nassr, where he currently plays. He has netted a total of 913 goals so far and is looking to add to his Euro 2016 triumph by securing the trophy at Euro 2024 in Germany – which could be his last international tournament for Portugal. However, had he signed with Liverpool over two decades ago, his career trajectory could have been significantly different.

Cristiano Ronaldo was all set to join Liverpool back in 2003 after agreeing to move to Anfield – but the Portugal talisman had other ideas and joined Manchester United

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson (R) with Manchester United's striker Cristiano Ronaldo (L) at the training session at the Dragon stadium in Porto 24 February 2004. The training session is a day a head of the clash between FC Porto and Manchester United for the UEFA Champions League first group, knock out round, first leg.


Ronaldo ended up at United where he enjoyed a trophy-laden career with the club (Image: NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP via Getty Images)

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Former Liverpool chiefs Phil Thompson and Gerard Houllier were left “almost choking” over their lunch as they discovered Cristiano Ronaldo had decided to join Manchester United instead of them.

Back in 2003, Liverpool thought they had convinced the then prodigious talent Ronaldo to make a move to Anfield in a deal valued at a mere £4 million – equivalent to about £7 million today. Ronaldo was turning heads worldwide with his performances for Sporting Lisbon, and Liverpool were eager to bring him on board.

Thompson previously reminisced about a meal he shared with football agent Tony Henry in Lisbon, where they appeared to iron out the details of Ronaldo’s transfer to England. Yet, this agreement never materialised, and the future five-time Ballon d’Or winner chose to sign with Liverpool’s arch-rivals, Manchester United instead.

Speaking with The Athletic in 2020, Thompson recounted: “I can still remember Tony’s exact words. It was all very nice and relaxed. It’s £4million and it can be paid over the four years of his contract, so £1million a year. That seemed very reasonable. Then I asked about the salary and Tony told me it was £1million a year, net.”

He continued, detailing the moment of surprise: “On the Tuesday morning, we were having lunch at the training ground and it came up on the yellow strap on Sky Sports, ‘Manchester United have signed Cristiano Ronaldo for £12.2million’. Gerard and myself almost choked on our food. I can remember Gerard jumping up and saying, ‘What the hell has gone on there?'”

Liverpool were unaware that Sir Alex Ferguson had been orchestrating a deal with the young Portuguese star after his impressive performance in a pre-season friendly against United. Liverpool’s loss would become one of United’s greatest gains as Ronaldo would emerge as one of the club’s most influential players of the new generation.

Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United is presented with an award for scoring 700 goals by Ex Manchester United Manager Sir Alex Ferguson prior tod the Premier League match between Manchester United and Newcastle United at Old Trafford on October 16, 2022 in Manchester, England.

Sir Alex Ferguson stole Ronaldo from under Liverpool’s noses (Image: Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
During his initial stint with United, Ronaldo netted 118 goals, clinching three Premier League titles, two League Cups, an FA Cup, the Champions League and the Club World Cup.

In 2009, Portugal’s icon bid farewell to Old Trafford and set off for Spain to join the esteemed Real Madrid, where he secured an impressive four Champions League titles along with two League titles, the Copa del Rey and Supercopa, two UEFA Super Cups and three FIFA Club World Cups.

Ronaldo then turned his attention to Italy and inked a €100million contract with Juventus the highest ever for any Italian club at the time. He bagged the league title twice with Juventus and also claimed two Supercoppas and the Coppa Italia once.

*Free trial auto renews at £19.99 annually unless cancelled. T&C’s apply. Ad-free indicates that you will not be shown standard display ad formats with the articles that you read, selected articles may contain commercial messages/affiliate links where contractually required.

Then, in 2021, he embarked on the journey from Turin back to Manchester and once again graced the Old Trafford pitch where he achieved 800 career goals and scored 24 in total in a season that was largely disappointing for the club.

Following a deadlock with the club and United boss Erik ten Hag, Ronaldo made his way to Saudi Arabia to join Al Nassr, where he currently plays. He has netted a total of 913 goals so far and is looking to add to his Euro 2016 triumph by securing the trophy at Euro 2024 in Germany – which could be his last international tournament for Portugal.

However, had he signed with Liverpool over two decades ago, his career trajectory could have been significantly different.

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