Rio Ferdinand hails Peter Ridsdale as 'a great man'

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Rio Ferdinand has spoken of his admiration for former Leeds United chairman Peter Ridsdale, who bought him from West Ham for £18 million and sold him to Manchester United two years later in a British record deal.

The 35-year-old, who was speaking at the launch of his autobiography #2sides, has great respect for Ridsdale and the way in which he was able to facilitate the move from Upton Park to Elland Road.

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"I remember the first time I met him and he came down to West Ham with permission to come and see me and talk to me about going to Leeds," Ferdinand said.

"And he was talking like 'I'll fly you up there, we'll give you this per week' and blah blah blah and I was just sitting there looking at the ceiling like, 'just put David O'Leary on the phone or something please, I want to talk about football, I want to improve as a footballer, I know you're the money man but with all due respect I need to talk to the manager and is he going to make me a better player'.

"And he was like 'oh' and just got it straight away."

Hero to zero

Ridsdale became the chairman of his hometown club in 1997 and enjoyed much success with the side in the first four years, reaching the Champions League semi-finals in 2001.

However, Leeds fans will always remember the 62-year-old and his board for plunging the club into financial nightmares, losing all their top players and eventually getting relegated - going from the Champions League to League One in just six seasons.

Despite this, former England defender, Ferdinand will always have fond memories of the way the Leeds owner conducted himself and helped him achieve his dream move to Manchester United after just two seasons with the club.

He recalls when he was on the verge of leaving the club, just before Leeds flew out to Australia for a pre-season tour.

Desperate to leave

"I heard Man United wanted to sign me during that World Cup (2002).

"I came back, and then we was going on tour at Leeds to Australia, and Man United put in a bid or something like that and I thought to myself 'well next morning we're all going to Australia, and I thought if I get on that plane I might not go to Man United. I know that Leeds need to sell me due to financial difficulties that they're in'.

"I remember sitting in [Ridsdale's] office for a couple of hours and I think he was just playing hide-and-seek with me.

"He wouldn't come and see me, he didn't want to sell me. And I said 'listen, please man, I know what position you're in, please just do the right thing'."

Mass exodus

Eventually Rio was sold to United around the same time Jonathan Woodgate, Robbie Keane, Lee Bowyer and Robbie Fowler also departed the club.

It meant many youth team players such as James Milner and Matthew Kilgallon had to be promoted into the first team squad.

From finishing a satisfactory fifth and gaining UEFA Cup qualification in the 2001/02 season, to a derisory 15th the following year after many key players departed, signified the start of the demise for Leeds.

Ferdinand has since moved to Queens Park Rangers after 12 years at Manchester United.

His autobiography #2Sides, which reveals much more about his career, is on-sale now.

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