Cristiano Ronaldo has revealed he was close to joining Manchester City last year before former manager Alex Ferguson convinced him to return to Manchester United.
In the first part of an interview with Piers Morgan released on Wednesday evening, from which snippets had already generated global headlines for his criticism of United's owners and the manager Erik ten Hag, Ronaldo discussed his move from Juventus to United ahead of the 2021/22 season and confirmed the speculation that he was in advanced talks to join rivals City.
"Well, honestly, it was close," Ronaldo said. "It's something they spoke [about] a lot and [Manchester City manager Pep] Guardiola said two weeks ago, I guess, that they tried hard to have me.
"But as you know, as my history [was] in Manchester United, your heart, your feeling ... made the difference. And of course, as well, Sir Alex Ferguson.
"I was surprised. But it was a conscious decision. Because the heart speaks, speaking loud in that moment."
Ronaldo first joined United from Sporting Lisbon as an 18-year-old in 2003, going on to win eight major trophies in six seasons and establishing himself as one of the best players in the world.
The Portuguese forward has often credited Ferguson, who masterminded the most successful era of United's history, as a central figure in his record-breaking career and it was his intervention that ultimately convinced Ronaldo to return to Old Trafford, 12 years after his then world record transfer to Real Madrid.
"I think it was the key. It was the difference in that moment, but I cannot be loyal if I will, I wouldn't say that Manchester City wasn't close," Ronaldo, 37, said.
"I spoke with him [Ferguson] ... He said to me that, 'It's impossible for you to come to Manchester City'. And I say, 'OK, Boss'. So I took the decisions and ... it was a good decision."
As the fallout from Ronaldo's explosive interview continues, his immediate football focus is on Portugal and the Qatar 2022 World Cup, where he aims to lead his country to a third international title.
However, Ronaldo will miss Portugal's warm-up friendly against Nigeria on Thursday after manager Fernando Santos confirmed his captain was suffering from a stomach bug.
"He is suffering from gastroenteritis and will not train today for this reason," Santos told a press conference in Lisbon on Wednesday.
"He won't be ready [to face Nigeria], he's resting, as you know, gastritis takes a lot out of players."
Once recovered, Ronaldo is set to feature in his fifth and potentially final World Cup, with Portugal opening their campaign against Ghana on November 24, before games against Uruguay and South Korea.
The five-time Ballon d'Or winner and his country have never won the competition but did triumph at Euro 2016 and won the Nations League in 2019.