The Portugal forward with five Ballons d’Or to his name almost joined the Spanish club before moving to Manchester United
Cristiano Ronaldo was almost signed by Malaga as a teenager, according to the man in charge of their recruitment at the time, Carlos Rincon.
The Portugal star, who has gone on to win five Ballons d’Or in a career which has taken him to Manchester United, Real Madrid, and now Juventus, was spotted by Malaga’s scouts during his time in Sporting youth academy.
It was a time when Ronaldo was showing many of the attributes which would help him become one of the best players of his generation.
Rincon and his team looked at Ronaldo in Denmark at the European Under-17 Championships in 2002, and as a result, began a scouting process.
“Cristiano was what he is now as a young man,” Rincon told El Desmarque . “A player with a very important physical power, with a spectacular strike of the ball.
“At that time I had great confidence with the president and everything I advised really made it effective.
“I was told to go to the big events in Europe, America or South Africa. I had to get the phone numbers of the three best players in the tournaments.
“As soon as the championship ended I had the phone number of the three best players. I was then following them on television, I was not going [to the games].
“The following week we established contact with players and families to meet their agents and see if we could make an offer.
“Within that situation was Ronaldo,” he adds. “He had not yet debuted in the first team of Sporting in Lisbon, and we made an offer through Jorge Mendes.
“We had established money, we could not make overexertion in investments. At that time we made an offer of €1.5m and the player was worth about €3.5m.
“We could not move on because we couldn’t reach that amount. In the end good players are not expensive, but we couldn’t get there.”
Many of Ronaldo’s key attributes were on show at an early age, those which are still evident today in his mid-thirties.
Rincon also describes Alex Ferguson as Ronaldo’s “sporting father” and believes that it was good for the player that he eventually joined Manchester United.
“He already has his primary qualities at that age, they already have them, then they develop or improve tactically.
“Cristiano was what he is now when he was young. A player with a very important physical power, with a spectacular shot, very intuitive in his way of understanding the game with a technical quality with the ball at the level of dribbling and spectacular driving.
“It does not surprise me what he is demonstrating at his age, those qualities have always had them.
“We acted very fast. A month or two passed and he immediately debuted with the first team and Manchester United arrived quickly.
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“Jorge has many elite-level relationships, at that time we could no longer compete.
“[Alex] Ferguson, his sporting father, became infatuated after a friendly and deposited €18m months after Malaga became interested.
“It was the best option at that time. Cristiano is one of the best in history.”