Real Madrid defender Gabriel Heinze, a former Manchester United player, said Monday he was "saddened" by Sir Alex Ferguson's claim the Spanish club signed him as part of a failed bid to lure his friend, Portuguese wizard Cristiano Ronaldo.
"These statements make me sad," the Argentinian told a news conference in Madrid ahead of his side's UEFA Champions League match at home against Juventus on Wednesday. "It saddens me that someone like Ferguson, who is respected around the world, makes this sort of foolish remark. This makes me sad because he gave me the chance to play in one of the biggest clubs in the world."
Real Madrid signed the 30-year-old back in August 2007 after United refused to let him join English Premier League rival Liverpool.
"I knew what they were doing. I don't believe they were interested in Heinze - good player though he is. The endgame was to get Ronaldo," Ferguson recently told GQ magazine.
Real Madrid spent much of the summer courting the Portuguese forward, and United were furious at the reigning Spanish champions' constant efforts to prise him away.
Ronaldo is currently earning 120,000 pounds a week in a deal through to 2012 and could buy himself out of the contract at the end of the season, so Ferguson has instructed the Old Trafford hierarchy to work on a new deal to ward off further overtures from Real which he expects, the Sunday Telegraph reported.