Ferdinand received Chelsea phone call over transfer but had to say “no”
Former Manchester United hero Rio Ferdinand has revealed how he turned down a move to Chelsea to instead sign with Leeds United.
Ferdinand impressed after breaking into West Ham’s team under Harry Redknapp, as the Hammers established themselves as a consistent top-half side.
They did though suffer a turn down in form after qualifying for the 1998/1999 Intertoto Cup, with many of their young talents being eyed by teams higher up the Premier League.
One of those teams was Leeds, who at the time were annual challengers for a place in the Champions League.
Alongside Frank Lampard and Joe Cole, Ferdinand was one of the stars of the Hammers, with the defender being named player of the year in 1998.
Ferdinand’s performances were also earning him call-ups to the England national team, though he was left out of Kevin Keegan’s squad for Euro 2000.
Despite that Ferdinand was catching the eye of the Premier League’s top sides, while the player himself believed that living in London was beginning to negatively affect him.
That all led to a November 2000 transfer to Leeds, who paid a then-British record fee of £18million, which also saw Ferdinand become the world’s most expensive defender.
But now Ferdinand has revealed that Chelsea were also interested in signing him, but he was forced to turn them down.
“I could’ve gone to Chelsea – I got a phone call just as I was going to Leeds,” he told the Eddie Hearn: 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.’
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“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 done.”
Series 3 of Eddie Hearn: No Passion, No Point is available now on BBC Sounds
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