Paolo Di Canio has explained why he decided to reject a move to Manchester United in order to remain at West Ham in 2001.
Di Canio spent eight years in England, playing for Sheffield Wednesday, West Ham and Charlton Athletic before returning to Italy in 2004 with Lazio.
He spent the majority of his time in the Premier League playing for the Hammers, scoring 51 goals in 141 appearances in all competitions.
However, he had the opportunity to leave West Ham for Man Utd in 2001 when Sir Alex Ferguson gave him a call on Christmas Day asking him if he wanted to join the Red Devils, who were the Premier League champions at the time.
“I thought [the phone call] was a joke,” Di Canio said on the Transfer Talk podcast.
“I thought it was my friend from Italy.
“My stomach went a bit because it makes you think you have underestimated yourself, that you are bigger than what you thought.
“Man United call you, try to persuade you to move because they want you. For a couple of minutes you feel big and strong.
“It was strange for me to say no to Sir Alex. I said ‘thanks, 1000 times thanks, but I can’t. West Ham are the family that warmed to me in the worst moment in my life, I’m the skipper, I can’t.’”
On Ferguson’s reaction, Di Canio added: “[Ferguson] told me, ‘Paolo, respect for this, I love people that think in this way. You are the man that I thought you were’,” he continued.
“I moved to West Ham not in a normal way, in the worst moment of my life.
“In the end I remained at West Ham and I don’t have regrets about it, even if United became the best, won the Champions League, winning the leagues.
“I would never change winning those leagues for the four and a half years I wore the West Ham shirt.”
On playing in the Premier League, Di Canio continued: “I’m never going to forget the eight years I had in England, they were the most important for me as a person.
“I became a different person in England, a person with morals, more respect for others. For this I have to thank English people.”
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