Former Liverpool assistant manager Phil Thompson has revealed the moment he and boss Gerard Houllier “almost choked” after missing out on Cristiano Ronaldo to Man Utd.
The Portuguese superstar started off his career at Sporting Lisbon before making the move to the Red Devils in 2003, since then he has gone on to have an unbelievable career in football, winning five Ballon d’Ors, five Champions Leagues and numerous other club trophies.
And back in 2003 Liverpool had identifed his potential with The Athletic saying that Thompson ‘went for dinner in Porto with the football agent Tony Henry to discuss how much it would take to persuade Sporting to sell’.
“I can still remember Tony’s exact words,” Thompson told The Athletic. “It was all very nice and relaxed. ‘It’s £4 million and it can be paid over the four years of his contract, so £1 million a year’. That seemed very reasonable. Then I asked about the salary and Tony told me it was £1 million a year, net.
“For an 18-year-old, that was a lot of money. But Tony said it was negotiable and I thought, ‘Jesus, these lot are really trying to push him out of the door’. We were keen, the boy was obviously a great talent.”
Liverpool thought they had won the race for Ronaldo if they could agree wages with the young talent but Thompson and Houllier – who travelled to the Toulon tournament to see Ronaldo up close – got a shock when he agreed a deal with arch-rivals Man Utd.
“I will never forget what happened next,” Thompson added.
“On the 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 £12.2 million’. Gerard and myself almost choked on our food. I can remember Gerard jumping up and saying, ‘What the hell has gone on there?’”