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Cristiano Ronaldo was close to joining Arsenal in 2003 before joining Manchester United

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ANY Arsenal fans should probably stop reading now.

It’s known in football circles that Arsenal flirted with Cristiano Ronaldo before he joined Manchester United, but a new book about Cristiano Ronaldo reveals how close the Portuguese superstar came to joining Arsenal in 2003 after “falling in love with the club”.

But, as history tells us, Sir Alex Ferguson swooped and interest from Arsene Wenger and Liverpool in the then Sporting Lisbon starlet was trumped by the bright lights of Old Trafford.

Spanish football expert Guillem Balague has written a new book Cristiano Ronaldo: The Biography, which is being serialised in The Telegraph, which makes titillating claims about the Real Madrid star’s career.

Here’s his take on Arsenal’s failed pursuit of Ronaldo. How different things would look now had they succeed …

“Jorge Mendes had meetings with all of Europe’s top clubs about Cristiano Ronaldo – then at Sporting Lisbon – in early 2003. Liverpool decided to offer €8million (£5.7m),” he writes.

He continues: “We were in a car and Jorge kept calling me to reiterate I had to make sure nobody saw me,’ recalled Ronaldo. ‘We stopped at a service station and I had to have my face covered. Jorge was calling me every five minutes: “Be careful, be careful around people

“Cristiano fell in love with the club, what it offered, the philosophy and the care with which young players are treated. “

But while Arsenal dithered over the terms and put nothing on paper, while Mendes has since written that the Emirates move left the club short of money, the canny Red Devils hierarchy organised a friendly against Sporting Lisbon.

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo controls the ball.

We know what happened next …

Meanwhile, Wenger has revealed how close Pep Guardiola came to joining him as a player during his Barcelona days.

The two go head-to-head in the dugout in the UEFA Champions League when Arsenal face Bayern Munich on Thursday (EDT), but Wenger revealed overnight how close he came to being the Spaniard’s mentor.

“He wanted to play with me as a coach,” Wenger said. “He wanted to play for Arsenal. I met him, he was 30-31 back then.

Bayern Munich's Spanish head coach Pep Guardiola.

“I can’t really remember, after that he went to Italy and I had players like Patrick Vieira and Emmanuel Petit who were still young and played for the national team as well.”

Wenger said of Guardiola the manager: “What I admire is that his team are very positive, very attacking.

“He has a positive mentality and a positive attitude towards football. That is why he adapted very well to Bayern – he is a great coach.”

© 2015 Fox Sports | This article originally appeared on Fox Sports on 4 November 2015.

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