AC Milan's former owner Li Yonghong wanted to sign Cristiano Ronaldo a year before the five-time Ballon d'Or winner joined Juventus but was persuaded they could not afford him, ex-club chief executive Marco Fassone said on Tuesday.
Fassone -- ousted along with Li from the debt-ridden Italian club last summer -- was speaking as Milan's representatives met with UEFA officials in Nyon, Switzerland on Tuesday amid impending sanctions for breaching Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations.
"Mr. Li wanted Ronaldo because he believed he (Ronaldo) had great strength in the Chinese market," Fassone told Italian daily newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore.
"The player wanted to leave Madrid. We met in July 2017 with his agent (Jorge) Mendes, to check the costs and availability of the player. Then I persuaded Mr. Li to let go of the dream, because Ronaldo was too expensive."
Li purchased the seven-time European champions from former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi for 740 million euros ($845 million) in April 2017, before splashing out 230 million euros on players.
And Fassone conceded he did not know the source of Li's revenues, with the club making losses of 126 million euros before defaulting on loans and being taken over by US hedge fund Elliot Management last summer.
"I don't know where the money came from, but prestigious advisors were involved in the deal so why should I have doubted him (Li)?" said Fassone.
The club won an appeal against their exclusion from this season's Europa League but are facing a hefty UEFA fine for breaching FFF rules for the period 2014-2017 with a decision expected in the coming weeks.
"I think Milan were led by an excellent board of directors," insisted Fassone.
"That 126 million euro debt included 45-million-euro extraordinary costs, covered entirely by Elliott.
"I don't hear from Li anymore, although sometimes I do from his right-hand man (David) Han Li," he added.