Liverpool thought that they had already nailed it. They were convinced that their deal to signing Cristiano Ronaldo back in 2003 was a done deal. However, they were unaware of what Sir Alex Ferguson was cooking behind them.
It came as a shocker. Liverpool bosses at that time Gerard Houllier and Phil Thompson explained how they “almost choked” on dinner when their target Cristiano Ronaldo signed d for Manchester United at the expense of Liverpool.
Liverpool were certain that they had already convinced the young Ronaldo to sign for their side in a deal that was worth £4million back in 2003.
Reflecting on what transpired, Thompson remembers going out for a dinner in Lisbon with football agent Tony Henry. The two were involved in detailed and finer details of a transfer that would never happen.
Speaking to The Athletic, Thompson said:
“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 £1 million a year, net.”
What Liverpool did not know is that Manchester United coach Sir Alex Ferguson was also working hard behind the scene to land Cristiano to Old Trafford. Ferguson caught Liverpool off-guard to snatch the Portuguese winger off their noses. Ronaldo snubbed Liverpool to join Ferguson’s Manchester United.
“On a 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?'”