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The one that got away: Rangers and El Phenomenon

In the late 1990s to early 2000s, Rangers’ history is littered with the club missing out on potential transfer coups. Indeed, we’ve previously written about the fact they attempted to sign a young Andres Iniesta, while there are also reports of the Gers trying to lure a teenage Lionel Messi to Glasgow. 

However, there is another superstar they lobbied for, only for the player to reject a move to Ibrox. Here, in our The one that got away series, we’ll explore that even further.

Rangers – Ronaldo, 1997

During Rangers’ pomp in the late 1990s, it’s thought they made an offer to bring one of the most exciting players in the world to Scotland. With Brazilian forward Ronaldo having recently won the World Player of the Year Award with Barcelona, he was the hottest property on the planet when a contract dispute pushed him toward an exit.

El Phenomenon had taken Europe by storm. Both PSV and the Blaugrana had watched this raw talent, carved in Cruzeiro, wreak havoc in Europe and the Selecao samba star was starting to be considered the best player in modern history.

However, his time at the Camp Nou was coming to a close in 1997 after the La Liga giants went cold on a hugely expensive, stupidly long contract to keep him in Spain. So, as you can imagine, a bidding war of epic proportions broke out to try and capture the rarest of talent.

Ronaldo would end up breaking the world transfer record for the second year running by moving to Inter Milan. Still, as much as the Nerazzurri would pay through the nose for the striker, Rangers took them all the way.

According to his agent (via the Daily Record), the Scottish giants pushed both Inter and Serie A rivals Lazio right up until the end. Indeed,  Giovanni Branchini revealed Rangers’ offer was ‘incredible’ as they pushed to win their first Champions League title and that his client ‘didn’t have to play on a Saturday in the Scottish League’.

Now, ambition is one thing and the kind of statement his arrival would have made probably could have changed the standing of Scottish football even today. However, that type of offer would surely have brought about Rangers’ financial ruin even sooner, considering Ronaldo’s injury record.

Indeed, while it was a wonderfully ambitious notion, that kind of thinking shows Rangers had their ruin coming all along.

The one that got away: Rangers and El Phenomenon
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