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Tuesday, 23 July, 2002, 19:48 GMT 20:48 UK
Worth every penny

BBC Sport's Rob Bonnet on the signing of Rio Ferdinand by Manchester United

Nice try Arsene! Ten million pounds too expensive? I don't think so!

Maybe the Arsenal manager is justifying his own lack of inclination to seek the signature of England's best central defender? (Campbell and Ferdinand at the heart of the Highbury defence - imagine that!).

Or maybe he's right.

But not if the law of the free market place is what counts.

After all, true value is merely the maximum that the highest bidder is prepared to pay for the product at any one time.

So in Ferdinand's highly celebrated case it is precisely the amount endorsed on the Manchester United cheques by chief executive Peter Kenyon.

(And it's an amount, incidentally, that might just kick-start English football's otherwise moribund transfer market prior to the start of the season.)

Mr Kenyon is neither stupid. Nor reckless.

Not even amidst the eerie popping sound of financial bubbles bursting across European football, where for example Italian club Fiorentina have asked their players to agree a salary cut.

And not even over a five year deal costing the United board about 50m in transfer fees and salary.

As long as he stays motivated, fit and a player of skill and intelligence (all probables), then Ferdinand will help take Manchester United back to their previous pre-eminence in English football.

Is it fair that United's financial muscle should strangle the market?

Maybe not, but it's up to the Premiership chairmen to vote in another way. Which they can't and won't.

Ferdinand will be the backbone that United never had in their slipped-disc of a 2001/2002 season.

It is as sound and sensible an investment as the acquisition of Veron for only 2m fewer was speculative and fanciful.

Manchester United's Juan Sebastian Veron
Veron - not good value compared to Ferdinand
And for Fergie it specifically repairs the damage made when he decided to cut off his nose to spite his face and sell Jaap Stam.

But the real point is that Rio Ferdinand is top-to-bottom class.

And I don't just mean in the timing of his tackles or his distribution of the ball.

He conducted himself at the World Cup with dignity and poise.

And he did much the same at the Old Trafford news conference, where interestingly he was accompanied not by an army of sharp-suited hangers-on but by members of his family.

Which says something about his values (and not his value).

Sir Alex described him as potentially the best centre-half in the world. Having paid a world record transfer fee for a defender he could hardly have said otherwise.

But Ferdinand's response was simply to say he wanted to continue to improve himself, a process that began as a child when he was living on a south London estate.

He is a man of the right stuff. Leeds fans who complain about his lack of loyalty must ask themselves if they registered similar disapproval about his defection from West Ham. Probably not.

Club loyalty amongst footballers means no more than it does amongst nurses who change hospitals or teachers who change schools. And nor should it.

Only professionalism counts - and Ferdinand has that in abundance.

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Rio Ferdinand
"I will grab this opportunity with both hands"

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