Record-breaking £18m Leeds United signing admits to price-tag pressure

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Rio Ferdinand was twice the world's most expensive defender when joining Leeds United and Manchester United.

Rio Ferdinand admits he felt the pressure of his record-breaking price-tag after leaving West Ham for Leeds United more than two decades ago.

Ferdinand swapped West Ham for Leeds in November 2000, signing a five-and-a-half-year deal and becoming the world’s most expensive defender following the agreement of an £18million deal. He was just 22-years-old at the time but widely regarded as one of England's most promising young talents, with the move to Elland Road a major step up.

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The young defender would develop alongside the likes of club captain Lucas Radebe and Jonathan Woodgate before eventually taking the armband from the former and cementing his place in David O’Leary’s Champions League-chasing side. But despite looking unflustered on the pitch, Ferdinand admits it was hard knowing how much he’d cost the club.

"The pressure that [being a world record transfer] brings is immeasurable," Ferdinand told his FIVE YouTube show. "Anywhere you walk... subconsciously you feel that people are looking at you, thinking and talking about the price tag.

"Whether it's going to the shops for a loaf of bread, filling your car up with petrol or walking down the road with your missus. Whatever it is, you just think all eyes are on you, and all they're thinking about is the transfer fee and the expectation."

After a promising debut World Cup campaign with England in 2002, Ferdinand made the controversial move from Leeds to fierce rivals Manchester United. In the process, he broke his own record as the world’s most expensive defender, with the Whites receiving an initial £29m with add-ons taking that up to more than £33m.

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Worsening financial issues at Leeds forced the club to start offloading some of their top players and the failure to qualify for the Champions League in 2002/03 paved the way for collapse. Ferdinand was one of the first to be sold but was eventually followed by the likes of Woodgate, Harry Kewell, Alan smith, James Milner and Mark Viduka by the time they kicked off their first year back in the Championship in 2004.

Ferdinand would go on to spend the majority of his career at Manchester United, winning six Premier League titles and the Champions League under Sir Alex Ferguson. The England international played 73 times for Leeds in total.