Paul Scholes says Manchester United were all ready to unveil Ronaldinho and hand him a squad number when the Brazilian changed his mind at the last minute and headed to Barcelona.
Having helped his country to World Cup glory in 2002, the enigmatic playmaker was a man in demand the following summer.
An exit door was opened at Paris Saint-Germain, with Sir Alex Ferguson positioning himself at the front of the queue.
He is not the only star that excited Scholes during transfer talk at Old Trafford, with a collection of tricky wingers capturing his imagination, but Ronaldinho remains the biggest missed opportunity.
The Red Devils icon told BBC Radio 5 Live of those he had hoped to see United sign:
“I always remember two or three that were possibly coming – Harry Kewell was one, and you knew what a good player he was. I think he ended up turning us down to go to Liverpool, which didn’t really bother us that much.
“Damien Duff was one at the time as well, Arjen Robben – I think he was very close to coming. As a midfielder you look forward to playing with quick players who can run with the ball and score you goals.
“The one that stands out is Ronaldinho. I can’t remember what year it was but I really think the manager got him.
“We were away in pre-season and I think they were close to announcing him and giving him a number but I think he ended up changing his mind at the last minute and signed for Barcelona.
“It’s strange because in that pre-season tour we were playing against Barcelona so we were all excited – ‘Ronaldinho, what a player’.
“He was coming from PSG and we all thought he is going to bring something special – almost like what Cantona brought to the team – and the next minute, three days later we are playing against him in Seattle and everyone is trying to kick him! We tried to boot him because he didn’t sign for us.
“I was lucky enough to play with so many great players and he would have just been another, but it never happened.”
Ronaldinho spent five years with Barcelona, scoring 94 goals across 207 appearances while helping the Catalan giants to two La Liga titles and a Champions League crown.
Source: News update