CRISTIANO RONALDO and Lionel Messi are sworn rivals, destined to divide fans in their fight to be considered football’s greatest of all time forever.
But it could have been so different, with Barcelona REJECTING the chance to sign Ronaldo and pair him with Messi for just £15million in 2003.
That summer, the Portuguese star was on the brink of leaving Sporting Lisbon after a rapid rise to prominence.
Of course, Ronaldo ultimately joined Manchester United and shot to superstardom before moving to Real Madrid six years later.
But now, Barcelona presidential candidate Joan Laporta has revealed he turned down the chance to bring Ronaldo to the Nou Camp in a deal that could have changed the face of the sport forever.
Laporta – president at the time – claimed he has ‘no regrets’, saying it was between Ronaldo and Ronaldinho, with Barca opting for the established Brazilian star.
Looking back on that fateful decision 18 years ago, Laporta told Iniestazo: “We were about to sign Ronaldinho and Rafa Marquez.
“Marquez’s people proposed Cristiano Ronaldo to us. He was at Sporting at the time.
“One of his agents said that they had a player who they had sold to [Manchester] United for €19m, but they’d sell him to us for €17m.
“But we had already invested in Ronaldinho at the time. Cristiano played more out wide than in the centre.
“We thought we were covered, so we rejected him.
“I don’t regret it.”
Barcelona would go on to enjoy huge success with Ronaldinho, winning two LaLiga crowns and one Champions League title during his five-year stay.
The Brazilian also won the Ballon d’Or during his time at the Nou Camp, in 2005.
Rather than link up with Messi, Ronaldo headed to Old Trafford – where he would three Premier League crowns and one Champions League.
He too won a Ballon d’Or at his new club, taking home the first of his five FIVE awards in 2008.
After quitting Man Utd in 2009, Ronaldo would go on to terrorise Barca while playing for their fiercest rivals, Real Madrid.
In nine years at the Bernabeu, he won two LaLiga crowns and a staggering FOUR Champions League crowns before joining Juventus for £99m in 2018.