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Eric Cantona: The worst transfer decision in Leeds United's history?

Cantona

22 years ago today, Leeds sold Eric Cantona to Manchester United.

22 years ago today, Eric Cantona was sold by Leeds United to Manchester United.

It was a transfer which changed the face of English football, and the fortunes of the two clubs.

Leeds had taken a chance on Cantona a year earlier, the Frenchman helping them on their way to winning a landmark league title in 1991/92.

Then three months into the following season, the first in the Premier League's inception, and in the days before the transfer window, Leeds boss Howard Wilkinson accepted an offer from Manchester United for the forward.

It was a deal which decided the fate of the title that season, with Cantona adding to the six he had scored for Leeds with a further nine for Manchester United to help end a league trophy drought.

With the money coming into English football from television revenues from Sky, Manchester United timed their rise perfectly. With Cantona getting better and finances healthier, the Red Devils were able to accelerate away from the pack and dominate English football for the best part of the next decade.

Cantona helped them win the league in 92/93, 93/94, 95/96 and 96/97, including two doubles courtesy of FA Cup wins in '94 and '96.

The £1 million fee Leeds sold to looks even worse not only with hindsight, but in comparison even with that era. Cantona's former teammate Jean-Pierre Papin left Marseille for AC Milan in the same year for a world record £10 million.

For Leeds, Cantona's sale is a case of what if? Would Manchester United have still gone on to dominate? Would they have been able to forge their own dynasty?

At least when Leeds sold Rio Ferdinand to the Red Devils a decade later, they received a staggering fee of £30 million, even if the knock-on effects of that move were perhaps even more disastrous.

But when you consider the glory Leeds could have sustained had they kept the Frenchman, by keeping themselves up and Sir Alex Ferguson's side down, it will go down as one of the worst transfer decisions of all time.

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