In an exclusive interview, former Barca president Joan Gaspart reveals that the Brazilian was set to stay at Camp Nou until Massimo Moratti intervened
Former Barcelona president Joan Gaspart has revealed that Ronaldo was keen to stay at the club prior to his blockbuster move to Inter, but decided on a transfer while Blaugrana officials were out celebrating his contract renewal at dinner.
The Brazilian has gone down in history as one of the finest players ever to star at Camp Nou, despite spending just a single season with the Catalan club.
In the 1996-97 campaign, Ronaldo smashed an incredible 47 goals in 49 games in all competitions, making himself an instant favourite with fans following his move from PSV in the summer of 1996.
Fast forward one year and Barcelona's board were looking forward to extending his stay, only to see Inter jump in with a world record bid of £19.5 million ($27 million) to take him to San Siro.
And, according to Gaspart, the news took everyone involved by surprise.
"Ronaldo wanted to stay at Barcelona, he was happy and his wish was to renew," the former chief, vice-president at that time, explained to Goal .
"We had even typed out the contract in front of the player himself and his two agents.
"It was three in the afternoon and we justifiably decided to go out to eat and celebrate Ronaldo's renewal, and then return to the office and sign the agreement we had reached."
While Gaspart and his colleagues were celebrating Ronaldo's new deal, however, the player's agents were secretly arranging his exit from Barcelona.
"We even toasted with cava to celebrate the agreement," Gaspart recalls.
"That was a mistake because if we had not gone out to eat and had signed at the same time we reached the agreement, Ronaldo would have stayed at Barcelona."
During the meeting, Gaspart claims that "one of his agents went off for half an hour to take a phone call", which happened to be from Inter president Massimo Moratti.
"At that time we did not pay much attention to the agent's absence. When he came back he apologised, had some coffee and toasted before going to the office to sign the contract.
"From the first moment we got to president [Josep] Nunez's office, the agents began to put obstacles up, they told Ronaldo to go home and that they would call him to sign. I asked them if they did not want to sign.
"They insisted they did but what they wanted was to renegotiate almost the entire contract, increasing the financial terms. They were trying to destroy the talks."
Even when Barca agreed to reopen discussions, it became clear that the player's agents were holding out for a San Siro switch.
"When we managed to renegotiate the five points they requested, they found a sixth part, which we also solved, and then a seventh," he stated.
"In tears, [Ronaldo] told me that he was sorry but his agents had a much better offer than ours and that it was better for all parties for him to go to another club to make much more money."
The very next day Inter deposited 4bn pesetas ($24m) in La Liga's accounts to meet Ronaldo's release clause, making him the second player after Diego Maradona to break the world transfer record twice.
Barcelona, however, were not willing to let their superstar go without a fight.
"We did not agree and I went to FIFA in Zurich to file a complaint against Inter," he said.
"The decision was taken to set up an arbitration committee to decide how much should be paid, not if the player could go to Inter, it was clear that was going to happen. FIFA agreed with Barcelona and Inter had to pay a further 400m pesetas.
"I personally told Moratti that what he did was not right because he knew we were negotiating and we had closed the operation. He has always denied knowing that we had come to an agreement but that's a lie.
"Whenever I see him I remind him that Ronaldo did not want to go to Inter, it was his agents who convinced him due to the money."
Despite Ronaldo's swift exit, Gaspart insists that the Selecao star was never happier than when he was lining up at Camp Nou – and that he almost returned five years later.
"Ronaldo told me [in 2002] that if we equalled Real Madrid's offer, he would choose Barcelona but it was a huge offer and we could not make such a big investment for a player who had left in that way," he said.
"Ronaldo's heart is more Blaugrana than Madrid because he has better memories of his time at Barcelona."