Manchester United legend Rio Ferdinand has admitted he ‘came close’ to joining Barcelona after holding talks with the La Liga giants over a move to the Camp Nou.
The England defender became the most expensive defender in the world when United paid Leeds United £29.1million for Ferdinand in 2002.
Ferdinand developed into the finest defender at Old Trafford and the former West Ham centre-back admitted this week that the finest moment of his career came when he captained United to Champions League glory in 2008 against Chelsea.
United had to beat Barcelona in the semi-finals to reach the final and a Paul Scholes goal in the second-leg put Sir Alex Ferguson’s side through to Moscow.
United didn’t concede a goal over 180 minutes against the likes of Samuel Eto’o, Thierry Henry and Lionel Messi, and United’s defensive performance at the Camp Nou is held-up by supporters as one of the finest of Ferguson’s era.
Ferdinand was colossal in Spain as United kept a clean sheet and he’s revealed that Barcelona boss Frank Rijkaard approached him in the tunnel at full-time to make clear that he wanted to sign him.
Negotiations then progressed between Ferdinand’s agent and the La Liga club but the former United captain says he found everything he was looking for at Old Trafford.
‘It came close there were discussions with my agent,’ Ferdinand told BT Sport.
‘Barcelona had touched base. I’d spoken to Rijkaard not about going there but he kind of made his feelings known. It was after the game in Barcelona we drew 0-0 in the tunnel after the game when I spoke to Rijkaard.
‘I always said I wanted to play abroad but the only thing that would stop me was if I was winning and successful on home shores. I was lucky I found a great club at Manchester United it would’ve been almost impossible for me to leave.
Ferdinand would instead stay at Old Trafford for the majority of the rest of his career.
He faced Barcelona a further two times but lost on both occasions as Pep Guardiola masterminded comprehensive wins in 2009 & 2011 finals.
Barcelona morphed into the best side in the world with Guardiola producing arguably the finest club side of all-time.
But Ferdinand insists he does not regret his decision and says the ‘landscape’ was different in 2008.
‘There was calls for me to go to various clubs. When that was on the table those clubs were in transition and it didn’t make sense to go somewhere it might take two or three years to win things.
‘There is an etiquete but you get the gist of what someone is saying I think Frank was a very respectful gentleman. But at the end of the day you know where you’re at after a conversation and then your agent starts to confirm through other channels you understand were you are at at that point.
‘But we beat them and went on to become European Champions so why would I leave them to go to another team. At that point Xavi, Iniesta, Messi was just 20 they were just starting to come through. They weren’t the players they were three or four years later. It was a very different landscape at that time but what a club.’
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