Al-Nassr manager Rudi Garcia claims he tried to sign Lionel Messi first before signing former Manchester United striker Cristiano Ronaldo.
The Portugal international sealed a move to Saudi Arabian side Al-Nassr last week with claims he could earn as much as £175m a year.
Ronaldo and Man Utd parted company at the end of November after the 37-year-old gave a controversial interview to Piers Morgan, in which he criticised the club, Erik ten Hag, senior executives, former players and more.
He said in the interview that he wanted to continue playing at the highest level but reports suggested there was a lack of interest from Europe’s elite clubs in his signature.
Ronaldo’s Portugal crashed out of the World Cup to Morocco in the quarter-finals, while Lionel Messi – who has been competing with Ronaldo for most of his career – won the World Cup with Argentina.
And Al-Nassr boss Garcia says he attempted to sign Messi before eventually settling for Ronaldo as he joked with reporters ahead of their match against Al-Ta’ee on Thursday.
Speaking to reporters at a press conference (via the Daily Mail), Garcia said: “first I tried to take Messi,” before laughing.
On the arrival of Ronaldo, Garcia said: “I think that any coach would be delighted to train a great star like Cristiano and already in November 2021 I was very close to going to United.
“They chose Ralf Rangnick, but I met twice with John Murtough and Darren Fletcher [United’s director of football and technical director respectively].
“I came very close to coaching this club and was very motivated to go, who wouldn’t be motivated to coach United? Any coach. United’s simple interest has allowed me to be sure of my ambitions in the future.
“I have always thought that the great players are the easiest to manage because they are very intelligent, I verified this with Francesco Totti at Roma.”
Some fans on social media have criticised Ronaldo for moving to Saudi Arabia but Rio Ferdinand is “happy” for him friend and former Man Utd team-mate.
“I’m pleased for him that he’s finally happy. For any footballer whatever level you’re playing in, happiness and being happy in the environment you’re playing in is one of the most important things.
“He hasn’t been happy for a while so I’m pleased he’s on the verge of finding that happiness, albeit in a country that not many people expected him to go to.
“But what a prospect that is, what an adventure that is for him to go to Saudi to go and play in a brand new league, a competitive league over there by the way.
“I’ve looked at people commenting and a few pundits saying it’s a sad way for him to go out. The only sadness is the way it ended at Manchester United. I think in hindsight in a couple of years he’ll look back and think it could have been handled differently.
“But this next chapter, going to Saudi. How is that a sad way to end his career? I don’t understand how people are saying that.”