It wasn’t unusual for Sir Alex Ferguson to make a personal visit to players he wanted Manchester United to sign and it has emerged that Karim Benzema was one of them
Sir Alex Ferguson reportedly visited Karim Benzema’s parents to try and convince him to join Manchester United when he was at Lyon.
The legendary Old Trafford boss was a huge admirer of the French striker after he caught his eye when the two clubs met in the Champions League last 16 during the 2007/08 season. Benzema scored in the first leg, a 1-1 draw in France, but United claimed a 1-0 win in Manchester to advance to the next round thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo’s winning strike.
Ferguson was so impressed by Benzema’s performance over the two legs, he approached him in the Old Trafford tunnel after the game before Lyon officials had to intervene, according to Rio Ferdinand, who played in the fixture. The former United defender told BT Sport: “The first time I played against him, Sir Alex Ferguson wanted to sign him. He was speaking to him in the tunnel after the game and Lyon officials had to pull him away.”
Benzema was firmly on United’s radar at this point and his interest would only heighten as the Red Devils would try and sign the talisman from Lyon. And the former United boss did everything he could to enhance their chances of securing the deal for the Frenchman.
Sir Alex visited Benzema’s parents to convince him that United was the club for him, according to Benzema’s childhood friend Anthony Mounier who came through the Lyon academy alongside him.
“Karim was the man at this point,” Mounier told The Athletic. “Manchester United were so keen on signing him that Sir Alex Ferguson went to Karim’s house to meet his parents. But his dream was to play for Real Madrid.
“He really looked up to the Brazilian Ronaldo. That was his idol. Karim’s dream has always been to play for Real Madrid and he wanted to follow in Ronaldo’s footsteps. If Real Madrid want to sign you, you can’t turn them down.”
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Benzema would realise his dream by moving to Real Madrid and the rest is history. He has equalled Raul’s record of 323 goals at the Bernabeu and has led the Spanish side to the Champions League final this season being a frontrunner for the Ballon d’Or at the ripe old age of 34.
It wasn’t unusual for Ferguson to make a personal visit to a player he wanted to sign and Benzema isn’t the only player to have snubbed his approach in favour of a switch to Madrid. United made a move to sign Raphael Varane from Lens in 2011 as Fergie tried to convince him that Old Trafford was the perfect destination for him by paying him a visit.
Varane was close to signing on the dotted line until a phone call from Zinedine Zidane who was Madrid’s sporting director at the time convinced him to go to the Bernabeu instead.
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More than a decade on, Varane would eventually find himself at Old Trafford after joining the Red Devils last summer, but the centre-half revealed midway through last season that he didn’t pluck up the courage to tell Fergie about his decision to snub United for Madrid.
He told The Telegraph about Ferguson’s visit to his family home in December: “It was a shock. To be honest, I was waiting in my house and looking out of the window to see if he was really coming.
“When he came, I didn’t speak English. My mum speaks perfect English, so she was the person who spoke more with him. It was a discussion about how he saw me, how he could have a project with me and how he could help me to grow as a person and player. It was very, very interesting and a very big experience for me.”