The La Liga giants had an agreement in place with Manchester United, but looked elsewhere as the England captain ultimately opted for Real Madrid

David Beckham and Manchester United “used” Barcelona in 2003 and led them to sign Ronaldinho, says Joan Laporta.

With the path cleared for the England international to make a surprise move away from Old Trafford, heavyweight rivals in La Liga prepared to engage in transfer combat.

Barca thought that they had done enough to push a deal through, but were ultimately left empty-handed as Beckham opted to link up with Real Madrid.

‘City will be strong under Pep’

Laporta was a Camp Nou presidential candidate at the time and while frustrated at seeing one move fall through – one which he had vowed to complete – found himself having the last laugh as attention was switched to Ronaldinho, who went on to become the world’s best player in Catalonia.

He told Marca: “It was between Beckham, Ronaldinho or [Thierry] Henry. United told us that they would sell him to us if we won the [presidential] election as we didn’t have the power at that time.

Ronaldinho Barcelona 2007

“But they used us and in the end he signed for Madrid. We met at Heathrow Airport and signed a document which said that they would sell him to us if we struck an agreement with the agent.

“However, we didn’t manage to do that. We went to Nice and stayed with him and he said he would think about it. We got fed up of waiting on an answer, so we signed Ronaldinho instead.”

When Barca almost sold Messi

Beckham would spend four years with Real but claimed just one major trophy, the La Liga title in his final campaign.

Ronaldinho, meanwhile, took in five seasons at Barca which brought him two league titles, a Champions League crown and two World Player of the Year awards.