Ex-Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier confirms Reds were on brink of signing Cristiano Ronaldo year before Man Utd transfer

FORMER Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier has confirmed that the Reds WERE on the brink of signing Cristiano Ronaldo – the year before he joined Manchester United.

He could have signed for Liverpool for just £4million in 2002 – but the Reds were concerned about paying a 17-year-old more than 22-year-old Michael Owen, who had just won the Ballon d'Or.

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The Portuguese superstar, 35, went on to lead United to Champions League glory and three successive Premier League titles from 2006-2009.

He eventually joined Real Madrid for a then world record £85million in 2009.

Sir Alex Ferguson signed Ronaldo for United in 2003 for just £13m from Sporting Lisbon when he was just 18, after he impressed in a pre-season friendly against the Red Devils.

But Frenchman Houllier, 73, has now made his incredible revelation that he could have been playing for United's hated rivals Liverpool.

Houllier wanted to bring the winger in back in 2002 when the five-times Ballon d'Or winner was just 17.

But he was in hospital with heart trouble and the transfer coup fell through.

Houllier, who led the Merseysiders to a cup treble in 2001, told Goal: "In 2002, the year I was sick, we decided to take Ronaldo and Ricardo Quaresma, two Sporting CP players.

"They had won the Toulon tournament with Portugal and were very good on the wings.

“We had been following Cristiano for a year, but it was dragging a bit because at the salary level it was more demanding than what we could do for Ronaldo.

“You have to know that there was a salary policy at Liverpool and Michael Owen had just won the Ballon d’Or. You couldn’t give a 17-year-old a higher salary than him.

“I have had a lot of contact with Cristiano but Manchester United played a friendly against Lisbon.

"Sporting won 3-1 and all the United players said he had to be bought.

“His price went from £4 million to £13m and we could not match it. Maybe also our recruiter should have said yes right away but he wanted to be sure, to not make a mistake.”

Ronaldo went on to make nearly 300 appearances for United, scoring 117 goals.

He won his first Ballon d'Or at United, becoming one of their greatest players of all-time and inspiring them to Champions League glory against Chelsea in 2008.

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