Former Leeds United star Dom Matteo has pinpointed the decision to sell defender Rio Ferdinand as the moment which resulted in the Whites transforming from European hopefuls into a League One side over a matter of years.

The story of how the Elland Road outfit fell from their heady heights into the depths of league football is one of the most infamous tales of recent times, and the club have still not fully recovered from their downturn, sitting 14th in the Championship this season.

Matteo, who was one of the club’s stars during their late 1990’s heyday, has revealed that it was Ferdinand’s exit to Old Trafford for a fee of £30million in 2002 which triggered the change around the club, with the players’ own mentalities switching as players were sold to keep the club afloat.

He told the Undr The Cosh podcast, as quoted by Leeds Live: “Rio Ferdinand was the first big player to leave. £30million to Man United, that affected the whole vibe.

“You went from a side trying to achieve something and build a squad to ‘hold on a minute, now players are looking to get away’.

“And Rio might have been an exception because he was the one exceptional player and he was £30million which was another record at the time.

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“Training wasn’t like it was. Training had become lethargic. The vibe wasn’t right at the place, it changed completely.”

Football Insider verdict

Leeds’ fall from grace has been well documented over the years but it is interesting to get an insight into what the squad were feeling as it happened around them. Matteo pinpointing Ferdinand’s exit should come as no surprise, for that was the moment in which fans probably thought things were changing for the worse. While the club might never have returned to the Premier League since their exit, interviews like this will likely make the Leeds faithful thankful that they still have a club to support when it could have easily gone under. As for the future, they will be hoping it looks brighter than the current campaign has been.

In other Leeds United news, the club are set to be handed an imminent attacking boost after a long-term blow.

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