Byline: Paul McCarthy
GEORGE GRAHAM summed it up quite neatly. BIG CLUBS, he proclaimed, never sell to other BIG CLUBS. Not fringe players, not reserves and certainly never their stars.
Even in a football world that has changed immeasurably since Graham's days at Highbury, it's an adage that still holds perfectly true.
It just doesn't happen. Manchester United would never entertain even a tentative telephone call from Arsenal should, say, Ryan Giggs or Paul Scholes ever grow disenchanted with life in the north.
While the Liverpool board would pluck out their eyes with tweezers rather than give Old Trafford or Highbury the satisfaction of stealing away an Owen, Gerrard or Murphy.
The only exception is when a manager realises one of the big names is past his sell-by date or is so ravaged by injuries that he can be off-loaded, safe in the knowledge the sale is not going to come back to haunt the club.
Graham did it with the late David Rocastle, Liverpool were happy to let Robbie Fowler slip away from Anfield. Which brings us neatly round to the club that bought both those misfits: Leeds United.
If we take anything from a year that has seen Elland Road riven with financial meltdown, in-fighting, ruinous results and ineptitude, it's the fact Leeds can no longer be considered a BIG CLUB.
Sure, they've got a marvellous heritage, a wonderfully loyal support base and a squad which still possesses the odd glittering prize. But a BIG CLUB? Not a hope.
It started in the summer when Peter Ridsdale swore on all he held dear (and not just his media profile) that Rio Ferdinand would never, ever, trust-me-on-this, be sold to Manchester United.
Then when a cheque for pounds 29m fluttered into his hands, sincerity was replaced by a smugness that he'd wheedled so much money out of such bitter rivals.
What a great deal! Goodbye financial fears, hello bright new future! Take that, United's coffers!
Except it wasn't such …