Ronaldinho, who was named the best player in the world in 2004 and 2004, claims watching Eric Cantona is the first memory he has of English football, but that several other United players would have been good enough to play for any club they wanted.
“I remember seeing Eric Cantona play for Manchester United,” he told The Daily Mail. “The way he used to control games was special to watch. Paul Scholes, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole, Wayne Rooney, all players who, at their peak, would have got into any team in the world. Rooney is a player I like – there is not a national squad in the world he would not improve.”
United had more or less signed Ronaldinho in the summer of 2003, before Peter Kenyon screwed it up by trying to take the piss out of PSG after hearing Barcelona had a bid that was smaller than ours accepted. Out of principle, PSG then sold him to Barcelona and the following year he was recognised as the best in the world. Fortunately, to ease the pain of missing out on Ronaldinho, we signed Cristiano Ronaldo that summer instead, and that didn’t turn out too badly!
Ronaldinho says he doesn’t have any regrets about not playing in England, and that joining United was the closest he ever came to moving here.
“That was the only time it has been a real option,” he said. “If Manchester United had signed me they would have won more European Cups!”
Whilst there’s no denying Ronaldinho certainly would have improved us, it’s hardly to imagine those United teams between 2004 and 2006 winning the Champions League. Alan Smith, Eric Djemba Djemba, Roy Carroll, Liam Miller, Kieran Richardson and Kleberson, to name a few of our players at the time, weren’t quite champions of Europe material. The only squad in Ronaldinho’s time at Barcelona that could have done with something a little extra was the one from the 06-07, that beat AC Milan 3-2 at home in the semi-finals, but then got thrashed 3-0 away. However, with Barcelona getting knocked out in the round of 16 that year, by Liverpool (who finished 3rd that year), with Ronaldinho having very little say, you’d be forgiven for thinking he probably wouldn’t have made that much difference to us either.