Rio Ferdinand will go down as one of the greatest centre-halves to play for Manchester United and England but if not for a desperation to stay away from London, his career might have been quite different.
It’s coming up on 19 years since Man United made Ferdinand the most expensive defender in world football at the time by taking the centre-back from Elland Road to Old Trafford.
Ferdinand had impressed for Leeds United in his two-year spell with the club and it was a desire to get out of London which saw the defender leave West Ham for Yorkshire two years before his switch to the Red Devils.
Prior to the Leeds transfer, Chelsea made an attempt to sign Ferdinand but he knew that he had to remove himself from the party life and friends that could have hindered his career if he had stayed in London.
“I could’ve gone to Chelsea – I got a phone call just as I was going to Leeds,” Ferdinand revealed on Eddie Hearn’s No Passion, No Point podcast.
“I just said to the geezers, ‘there’s no point even trying to pitch the idea to me. I need to leave London. I’ve got all my mates, I go out every weekend. I can go anywhere in town – I’m living a distraction.’
“Going to Leeds was getting me away from my mates, who were good boys, but we were getting in trouble and going out too much.
“I didn’t have a hand break, everything was full throttle. The best decision was looking at myself and moving to Leeds when I did. Best thing I’ve done.”
Ferdinand’s performances for Leeds caught the eye of Alex Ferguson, who brought him to Old Trafford and it proved to be a wise investment as the defender went on to win six Premier League titles and a Champions League.