Leon Britton joins Sheffield United from Swansea City
Britton was Swansea City's longest current serving player
Swansea City midfielder Leon Britton has joined Sheffield United on a free transfer after turning down a new contract at the Liberty Stadium.
United fought off Premier League Wigan and Championship rivals Middlesbrough to secure Britton's signature on a three-year deal.
"It was the toughest decision of my career," said Britton.
"It was far from easy to leave Swansea, but at 27 years of age it was a move I had to make."
Britton joined Swansea in 2002 from West Ham United and went on to make 335 league and cup appearances, scoring 15 goals for the Welsh club.
He played a key role as the Swans survived the drop out of the Football League before making their rise to the Championship where they have flirted with the play-offs in their first two seasons.
Britton says he received a "great offer" to stay at Swansea and it was a "huge wrench" to leave, but he needs a fresh challenge.
"I was here with Swansea for the penultimate game and the special atmosphere from that day is still fresh in my mind," he said.
"Sheffield United have Premier League pedigree and the manager [Kevin Blackwell] convinced me they are looking to go for it again next season.
"He's looking to change their style of play a bit. He knows how I play and he wouldn't have signed me if he didn't want me to get on the ball, play and bring others into the game.''
But Blades boss Blackwell revealed he had thought he had lost the battle for Britton.
"Leon is a player of real quality, the sort we have missed at this club since the days when we had Stuart McCall and Michael Brown
Blades boss Kevin Blackwell
"It looked like being a losing battle a few weeks ago when Premiership interest stalled our bid" said Blackwell. "But he looked at everything and said that he wants to come here."
Britton is the third player to join the Blades in the space of a week following the arrivals of Johnny Ertl from Crystal Palace and Daniel Bogdanovic from Barnsley.
"It has been a protracted process because it started after we played Sheffield Wednesday in mid April when we had arranged to meet in the hotel and I began preliminary talks with him," Blackwell told the club's official website.
"Leon is a player of real quality, the sort we have missed at this club since the days when we had Stuart McCall and Michael Brown in the middle of the park."
Swansea defender Alan Tate, who joined the club at around the same time as Britton, says his departure is a "massive loss".
Britton's future had been in question since December after saying he was "surprised and disappointed" that Swansea City boss Paulo Sousa has made public details of his contract negotiations.
Sousa claimed Swansea had offered to make Britton one of the club's best players.
He was linked with a move to Wigan - where former manager Roberto Martinez is in charge - in the January transfer window, before a deal was understood to have collapsed at the last moment.
Britton reportedly claimed towards the end of the season that he tried to restart contract talks with Swansea in March, only to be told to wait until the campaign ended.
But the move to Bramall Lane will come as a surprise to many Swans supporters who expected him to leave to play in the Premier League.
Britton, who attracted the highest transfer fee for a teenager when West Ham signed him from Arsenal for £400,000 in 1998, joined Swansea on a free transfer in the summer of 2003 after an initial loan spell.
During that loan spell, he helped the then League Two club survive relegation from the Football League.
And he has since played a key role in transforming the club from a bottom division struggler to a team that is flying high in the Championship.
As well as winning promotion from League Two, Britton was a League One title winner and in between celebrated FA Trophy success, but also tasted play-off final heartache.
His seven years at the club made him one of the longest-serving current players alongside defender Alan Tate.
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