Rio Ferdinand says Manchester United should have signed Arjen Robben before he joined Chelsea and very nearly did – until he was given a tour of the club’s Carrington training ground.
The Dutch winger enjoyed a remarkable career after swapping PSV for Chelsea, winning back-to-back Premier League titles before winning La Liga with Real Madrid and then claiming eight Bundesliga titles with Bayern Munich as well as the Champions League.
Robben had been earmarked as a future star of Dutch football when he was still a teenager, first with Groningen, and there were a host of European giants circling thanks to his performances for PSV.
Ferdinand says Robben was one of the trickiest wingers he played against and wishes he had joined United, though claims the Dutchman ‘didn’t like the smell’ of the club’s training ground and joined Chelsea instead back in 2004.
On an Instagram Live on Tuesday, Ferdinand was asked to pick between Robben and Ryan Giggs, both in their prime, and replied:
‘I’d have to go for Giggys you know. Robben was nasty though, oooh Robben.
‘You knew he was going to come back in on his left but the left-back couldn’t deal with it. He’d be saying, “I’m going to come in on my left, you’re not gonna stop me”. And they didn’t.
‘What a player. Robben was great. We should have signed him at Man United.
‘I think he came to the training ground. He walked around and didn’t like the smell and walked off and went Chelsea. I couldn’t believe it man. He would have been great for us.’
On Giggs he added: ‘But Giggsy was an unbelievable footballer. Left wing, into centre midfielder by the end of his career. Great footballer. Great, great footballer.’
Robben was lured to Stamford Bridge at the start of the Roman Abramovich era, joining alongside Petr Cech and Mateja Kezman, and was a permanent fixture on the wing under Jose Mourinho as the side won back-to-back titles and then left to join Real in 2007.