Wenger says biggest regret is missing out on Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo (R) could have been playing for Arsenal against Manchester United, according to Arsene Wenger. 

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Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger says his biggest regret in the transfer market is missing out on signing Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo in 2003.

Ronaldo left Sporting Lisbon to join Manchester United for £12.3m as an 18-year-old of huge promise, going on to establish himself as one of the greatest players in the Old Trafford club’s modern history after six increasingly prolific seasons under Sir Alex Ferguson.

But Wenger said he had been "so close" to bringing Ronaldo to Arsenal, only to miss out on a player who went on to score 117 goals and win eight major trophies for United before leaving for Real Madrid for a world record fee of £80m in 2009.

Ronaldo has won the Champions League as well as five other trophies during his time at the Bernabeu and won the Ballon d’Or last year.

"My biggest regret: I was so close to signing Cristiano Ronaldo," said Wenger, talking at a sponsors’ question and answer session on Thursday.

"And not only did I not get him, but he signed for Manchester United. That, of course, still hurts today."

Wenger also revealed he had narrowly failed to sign Chelsea striker Didier Drogba when the Ivory Coast international was still a relatively unknown youngster at Le Mans.

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Drogba went on to play for Guingamp and Marseille before signing for Chelsea, where he became a key player during a period of sustained success at Stamford bridge.

"I would have loved to have managed Didier Drogba, for two reasons," said Wenger.

"One, I missed him when he played at Le Mans in France, not even in the top league. I knew there was a good player there and I missed him.

"And secondly, because he hurt us so much in big games that all this pain would not have happened."