On 22 July 2002, Manchester United broke the bank to sign Rio Ferdinand on a 5-year deal. The transfer made the defender the most expensive British footballer in history at the time and the world's most expensive defender for a second time.
Rio Ferdinand had joined Leeds from Bournemouth in 2000 for £18 million, then a British transfer record as well as becoming the world's most expensive defender. Ferdinand was an integral part of the Leeds team that reached the UEFA Champions League in 2001, the following season he was also made club captain.
During the 2002 FIFA World Cup, rumours began circulating that Leeds were in dire financial trouble and Rio Ferdinand was up for sale if the right offer came. Later that summer after Ferdinand's impressive World Cup for England, Leeds accepted a bid of £29.3 million with possible performance-related add-ons up to £33.3 million due to their perilous financial position. Ferdinand himself years later claimed that he had to push hard to force the transfer to Manchester United.
Rio Ferdinand went on to achieve incredible heights in Manchester. He won a total of fourteen trophies with the Red devils including six League titles and one Champions League trophy. He was Alex Ferguson's first-choice defender for over a decade. Ferdinand also formed a formidable partnership with Nemanja Vidic. In his twelve seasons with Manchester United, he was named in the Premier League team of the season five times along with being in the FIFA pro world 11 once.
As for Leeds United, the sale of Rio Ferdinand to arch-rivals Manchester United was the first indication of the financial crises at the club. Leeds had taken out large loans against the prospect of the share of the TV rights and sponsorship revenues from UEFA Champions League qualification and subsequent progress in the competition. However, Leeds narrowly failed to qualify for the Champions League in two successive seasons, and as a consequence did not receive enough income to repay the loans. Leeds were eventually relegated in 2004 and failed to get to the Premier League until 2020.
Rio Ferdinand's Manchester United career ended in 2015, a season after Alex Ferguson left the club when he wasn't offered a contract. The defender signed for newly promoted Premier League club Queens Park Rangers on a one-year contract. In May 2015, following their relegation, Queens Park Rangers announced the release of Ferdinand in the summer. He made only 12 appearances for QPR in his only season with the club.
On 30 May 2015, Ferdinand announced his retirement from professional football, three days after leaving QPR at the age of 37. Ferdinand is widely considered one of the best Premier League defenders of all time along with John Terry, Tony Addams and Nemanja Vidic.