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Remembering how close Cristiano Ronaldo was to signing for Parma in 2003

The legendary forward's career could have been so different after he came close to signing for the Italian club

The drama of football is all about sliding doors moments.

What if Gazza had got on the end of that cross in Euro 96? What if the referee had seen Diego Maradona’s handball? What if Harry Kane hadn’t been on corners in 2016?

That last one is still sore.

But there is one moment in recent history that could have changed the course of football folklore forever.


Cristiano Ronaldo was close to signing for Italian side Parma in 2003.

The now legendary forward’s career could have been so different, and unsurprisingly Sir Alex Ferguson had something to do with it all.

How close was he to signing?

The tale goes that Parma, who were still a Serie A side at the time, needed to fill a gap on their right wing.

Their team already boasted the likes of Alberto Gilardino, Adriano and Hidetoshi Nakata.

Seriously though, Nakata was a PLAYER

Seriously though, Nakata was a PLAYER

But after spotting a young flying winger playing for Sporting CP, they decided to break the bank for Ronaldo.

€11million was the offer on the table, and according to numerous reports since then, the deal was all but done.

What happened next?

Well, Fergie happened.

In a now infamous pre-season friendly game between Sporting and Manchester United, Sir Alex spotted the lad who was soon to be one of his crowning moments as a manager.

It was nice of Kleberson to wear his Man Utd duvet to his unveiling

PA:Press Association
It was nice of Kleberson to wear his Man Utd duvet to his unveiling

With an offer on the table of €11million from Parma, Ferguson went all out to get his man.

The rest is fairly well known history.

One moves upwards, the other moves down

Ronaldo signed for United for a fee of around €17million – six million Euros higher than the Italian had bid.

Parma’s president Stefano Tanzi mourned the fact that he’d been muscled out by the financial power of United.

That moment when you’re in a protest and you don’t want to be

Getty Images
That moment when you’re in a protest and you don’t want to be

He said at the time: “The only regret is with Cristiano Ronaldo.

“We wanted him, we went very close to getting him, but, unfortunately, Manchester inserted themselves between us and the player at the least timely moment.”

Ronaldo’s first season at United was mildly tumultuous, before he became one of United’s all-time greats.

Parma, meanwhile… well, that’s another story.

The fall and fall of a great Italian team

2003 turned out to be a turning point in the history of Parma.

The Italian club, twice winners of the UEFA Cup, fall into a sharp decline after they filed for bankruptcy during the 2003/04 season.

Their owner, Calisto Tanzi, became embroiled in a corruption scandal after embezzling money from his company Parmalat.

Calisto Tanzi. Great name, not so great with money…

Calisto Tanzi. Great name, not so great with money…

The good times were over, and after another bankruptcy, a few false dawns along the way, and financial troubles, Parma fell to the very depths of Italian football.

Within ten years they had to re-form after more financial difficulty, and started from Serie D – the fourth tier of Italian football.

They gained back-to-back promotions in the last three seasons, and will finally start this season back where they belong in Serie A.

And finally…

As for that guy Cristiano Ronaldo? We’re not sure.

But if anyone hears anything about what he’s done since that near miss in 2003, do let us know.

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