It’s that time of the year when we are bombarded with gossip that this player or that player is rumored to be pursued by Barça. Summer transfer window gives us, the Blaugrana faithful, something to discuss and ponder as we wait to see what moves our club will do. The number of players rumored to be joining Barça every summer could be enough to field three additional lineups. In the end, only a few of the rumors became reality while most dissipate into the wind. This series though will look back on the possible Barça transfers that almost happened. The first part deals with the near capture of Ronaldo and Fernando Morientes.

Believe it or not, Barça were presented with the opportunity to get Ronaldo or Fernando Morientes in August of 2002. At the time, Ronaldo shocked the football world when he demanded that his club, Inter, sell him to Real Madrid shortly after he had helped Brazil win the World Cup. This started a back and forth game between Inter and Real Madrid about how to negotiate this transfer.

Inter, angry with what had transpired, supposedly offered Ronaldo to Barça to play for them for one season on a loan basis. Ronaldo had played for Barça during the 1996-1997 season before being sold to Inter. During that 1996-1997 season, the club won four trophies under the helm of Bobby Robson, with Ronaldo scoring an astonishing 47 goals in 49 games.

Though his goals were memorable, he did not leave a lasting favorable impression with the fans due to his absence from the club to participate at Carnaval during the season, and also for having left the club, down the stretch, in order to join up with Brazil for the 1997 Copa America. Without Ronaldo, Barça lost the league title but managed to defeat Real Bétis to win the Copa del Rey. I am not so sure the Blaugrana faithful were going to be welcoming Ronaldo back with open arms either, especially since he wanted to join Real Madrid.

Nevertheless, on August 26, 2002, Inter reportedly offered “Il Fenomeno” to Barça in a season-long loan, but then manager Luis van Gaal vetoed that deal. Just imagine for a second, Barça could have had a chance to bring back Ronaldo to Barcelona, even if it was just for one season, where he would be reunited with his Seleção teammate Rivaldo. Who knows what entertainment and damage those two could have created on the pitch. I can also imagine how this loan would have not helped matters regarding the finances of the club thanks to its poor financial state at the time. Ultimately, Rivaldo left the club because of van Gaal’s appointment, Ronaldo went to Madrid, and the Dutchman was out of a job before the season was over.

When the Ronaldo loan deal fell through, there was talk that Inter wanted a Real Madrid player, Morientes, to be part of the Ronaldo transfer. Inter though had no intention of keeping Morientes as they had lined up a deal with Barça to sign the player. Supposedly, Barça president, Joan Gaspart was ready to give Inter between €22-24 million for Morientes. However, on the eve of the European summer transfer window, Barça pulled out of that deal. One of the reasons the deal fell through was supposedly the wage demands of Morientes. Others claim that Barça were never interested in signing Morientes, and that their sole intention was to sabotage Ronaldo’s transfer to Madrid deal by pulling out of the Morientes transfer at the last minute. In the end, Morientes remained with Real Madrid for another season and Madrid had to pay more money to Inter in order to get Ronaldo.

However, the Morientes coup would have been something remarkable, especially after the Figo scandal following his transfer from Barça to Madrid just two years prior. Morientes joining Barça, after winning three Champions League titles, with a chip on his shoulder would have been interesting. Morientes even declared that he grew up as a Barça fan. The last player to directly join Barça from Madrid was current manager Luis Enrique. Morientes was being ignored for Ronaldo even though he started in all triumphant Champions League finals for Real Madrid. It would have been interesting to see what he would have done for Barça, especially against his former club. Morientes would haunt Madrid in 2003/2004 Champions League season when he scored against them in the quarterfinals, while playing for Monaco on-loan, thereby knocking them out.

We can only ponder what would have happened if either of those players were part of the club. Could have made an impact on the pitch? Probably. Would it have improved the club’s long term future? Doubtful. With the way Barça was being run back then, it would have been throwing money at a problem that required more than just transfers and on-loan players to resolve. Nonetheless, that was one interesting final month of the summer transfer window back in 2002 where Barça could have obtained one of the world’s greatest scorers.

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