Rio Ferdinand - Leeds United fans memories of a class act

When it comes to signings they say you pay for what you get in football.

Saturday, 20th November 2021, 4:30 pm

And Rio Ferdinand proved just that - a class act whose transfer to Leeds United broke records without breaking sweat.

He became the club's most expensive signing, British football's most expensive player and world football's most expensive defender when he signed from West Ham United for £18 million.

Indeed this writer was despatched to Leeds and Bradford Airport on a Saturday morning in November 2000 when he touched down to meet chairman Peter Ridsdale and kick off his Elland Road career.

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Rio Ferdinand shouts instructions during Leeds United's Premier League clash against Chelsea at Elland Road in October 2001. PIC: Steve Riding

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Ferdinand would go on to experienced the best of Leeds in the post-Wilkinson era during his season-and-a-half with the Whites.

The club waded into the thick of the fight for the Premier League title and became the story of the Champions League in 2001.

And Ferdinand was the first player to receive a 10/10 match rating from the YEP's Phil Hay on a night to remember when the Whites routed Deportivo La Coruna at Elland Road.

Yet it proved to be an uncomfortable start as Leeds United stumbled to a 3-1 defeat at Leicester City on his debut

It proved a blip as Ferdinand impressed with a series of imperious performances making the game, at times, look effortless.

Highlights during his spell in LS11 included a goal against Liverpool at Anfield. The Reds were guilty of poor marking at Ian Harte's corner, allowing Ferdinand to steal in and head past Danny Murphy as he guarded the near post.

He also netted against his former employers at Upton Park when he rose above Igor Stimac at the far post to head powerfully at goal.

Ferdinand became the club captain after replacing Lucas Radebe and turned in an impressive second campaign

After narrowly missing out on Champions League qualification for the second successive season, crippling debts meant that the United were forced to sell many of their prized assets.

Amid stormy seas, Ferdinand was the first to leave after the Whites accepted a bid of £29.3 million from Manchester United, making the world's most expensive defender for a second time (a title he had lost in 2001 to Lilian Thuram).

Your YEP has asked the Elland Road faithful to share memories of a number 29 whose departure left a bitter taste in the mouth of many fans.

Responses included:

Steve Cruise - "Superb player. A bit of a Rolls Royce but Woodgate covered his odd error. For me both fit and healthy Woodgate was the better BUT one of our best centre back combinations ever."

Jason Oxlee - "Try to erase his time as a Leeds player to be honest. But I would say his away at Liverpool we just went crazy in the Anfield Road away end."

Einar S Guðmundsson - "Thought he was really good while at Leeds, shame he went to the dark side but always liked him as a player."

Doug Priestley - "With Woodgate a classy pair."

Matt Anderson - "I remember whenever he played the pundits would say he made one mistake per game and Leeds spent £18m on him. Transfer and he is suddenly world-class and beyond criticism."

Paul A Waite - "He was different level at Leeds."

Chris Robinson - "We did well out of the deal to sell him, and he played well for us. Very good player, but more John Stones than Virgil Van Dyke for me."

Steven Jackson - "He was an excellent player."

Darren Murphy - "That header against Deportivo, "3-0 to the weakest team"

Andrew Billingham - "Excellent but Leeds didn’t have a clue on his debut at Leicester. Thankfully things improved. Still rate Woodgate the better all round defender though."


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