Arsenal FC: Cristiano Ronaldo and 4 Other Players Who Nearly Joined the Club
Throughout the last decade, Arsene Wenger has had his finger firmly on the pulse of world football talent. Sometimes, his keen eye yields gems like Cesc Fabregas, but sometimes he barely misses landing the player he wants.
Unfortunately, there have been a few of these in recent years for a various reasons. And as a further slap in the face, some of them have been world-class players. You can't prevent it or lament it after the fact, but it is somewhat sad to reflect on what might have been.
So, if you didn't know about these almost-greats already, you can now envision a team with these marquee names that came within an inch or two of wearing the cannon.
On the other hand, they probably would have left for Manchester City anyway.
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Yaya Toure is really a complete midfielder. His strength on the ball is unparalleled, and his versatility allows him to play either in a holding role or as an attacking midfielder due to his passing ability.
He is also exactly what Arsenal need: strong, durable and a consistent performer. And, to add salt to the wounds, he came within a passport of actually joining Arsenal's midfield.
According to Arsene Wenger, an agreement was reached with his Belgian club Beveren when Toure was very young, but since he could not get a Belgian passport, the move fell through.
Now, we can only reflect on what a Kolo and Yaya Toure tandem at Arsenal would have produced.
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This one is slightly different, as Petr Cech was ready to join Arsenal in 2002, but in a rare stroke of misjudgment, Arsene Wenger did not want him.
More specifically, he was not deemed good enough for the English league, which in hindsight is ridiculous considering his success at Chelsea. Even worse, had Cech been signed, the timing would have been perfect for him to succeed David Seaman.
Instead, Arsenal have only just ended their long quest for a reliable goalkeeper by finding Wojciech Szczesny. Perhaps Arsenal could have saved enough points to win silverware in these six torturous years since the FA Cup triumph in 2005.
The one positive we can take from this, though, is that we don't have to see his hideous headgear every weekend.
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At the start of last season, Arsenal's goalkeeping situation was horrid. In other words, Manuel Almunia was again first choice. People had thought Wenger was his cheap self once again and lost hope.
But it was recently revealed that, barring intervention from Livepool's brass, Arsenal would have bought the superb shot-stopper for £20 million.
Although Arsenal would have had one of the best goalkeepers in the world in its squad, Szczesny would not have risen to prominence and would have left the club in all likelihood.
So this one is bittersweet, but at least it shows that Wenger is at least somewhat capable of showing some initiative to fill a hole in his squad the size of the Grand Canyon.
It also shows how much Hicks and Gillett needed to sell, as they kept one of their most prized assets at the expense of many millions.
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What a midfield it could have been. Xabi Alonso hanging back while Cesc Fabregas tormented the opposing defence with slicing through-balls and passes to his countryman, who could do the same.
On transfer deadline day in 2008, Arsenal came extremely close to bringing in the Spaniard to solidify their midfield and bring in much-needed experience. Unfortunately, the deal with Liverpool fell through at the last second as Real Madrid swooped in and took Alonso back to Spain.
Not only would this move have brought a fellow Spaniard to Arsenal to make Fabregas feel more at home, it would have signaled the Gunners' initiative to him and other players.
In addition to having an improved football team, players would feel better about joining the club and players already wearing the cannon (Samir Nasri) would be more reticent about leaving. Sad, indeed.
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Ronaldo is perhaps the player on this list who came closest to joining Arsenal, making it all the more heartbreaking that the move did not come to pass.
According to the now-Real Madrid ace, he had three separate meetings with Arsene Wenger and was "within touching distance" of becoming a Gunner in 2003.
Unfortunately, Manchester United bid £12.25 million for the player, and the rest is history. One cannot help but imagine an Arsenal team of the mid-2000s that included Cesc Fabregas, Patrick Vieira, Robert Pires and an emerging Cristiano Ronaldo. Incredible, isn't it?
On the other hand, Arsenal did not need another transfer saga, so the whole protracted issue with Ronaldo making his "dream move" to Madrid was better left with Manchester United.
But, in this case especially, one cannot help but wonder about what could have been.