The all-time Premier League top scorer was playing at Blackburn at the time when Sir Bobby enquired about bringing him to the Nou Camp. When his advances were rejected by Rovers, he turned to an up-and-coming Brazilian at PSV called Ronaldo.
Barcelona forked out a then world record transfer fee of $19.5 million to sign the charismatic goalscorer, who would go on to score 34 goals in 37 appearances for the Catlan side before moving on to pastures new at Inter Milan. Meanwhile, Shearer signed for Newcastle United instead and would go on to become the club’s greatest ever player with 148 goals for the club.
For Ronaldo, it was the move that began the world-renowned striker's journey to the very top, but the course of football history might have looked a little different if it was the lad from Gosforth who had put pen to paper at the Nou Camp.
Alan Shearer was talking with Gary Lineker and Micah Richards on the Match of the Day Top 10 podcast when the story came up. Richards and Shearer were tasked with picking their Top 10 World Cup controversies.
The shenanigans of Ronaldo before the World Cup final in 1998, when he forced his way onto the teamsheet despite a convulsive fit just hours before was up at the top of both pundits’ lists.
Whilst discussing the striker, Shearer said: "Sir Bobby signed him at Barca didn't he? He tried to sign me before him! Bobby told me this story when he was managing Newcastle.
"He said, 'I came in for you first and Blackburn told me you weren't for sale and then two or three weeks later you'd gone to Newcastle. They said emphatically you weren't for sale.' Then he went out and he got young Ronaldo, I think from PSV. It worked out - he got the right one in the end!"
Shearer put the Brazilian's World Cup teamsheet madness in second place in his list, deciding that Zinedine Zidane's headbutt of Marco Materazzi in the 2006 World Cup final deserved to take the top spot as the competition's most controversial moment ever.