FORMER England captain Rio Ferdinand has announced his retirement from football.
The former West Ham United, Leeds United and Manchester United central defender spent last season at Queens Park Rangers, who were relegated from the Barclays Premier League.
Ferdinand, 36, told BT Sport he had decided to bring an end to his career. The confirmation came after a season in which Ferdinand struggled to hold down a regular place in the QPR side.
Ferdinand was absent for the closing stages of the campaign, his wife, Rebecca Ellison, having died after a battle with cancer on 1 May.
Ferdinand said: “This season I really found out that it was time to hang the boots up and get back in the house and watch other people play the game.”
Former United and England team-mate Paul Scholes said of Ferdinand: “He was a great player, without a doubt the best centre-half I ever played with. I would say for a time as well he was the best centre-half in the world. He was such a pleasure to play with and to play in front of him, he made your job so easy.”
Ferdinand began his career at West Ham, and made his England debut aged 19 in 1997, before an £18 million transfer to Leeds in 2000. He subsequently moved across the Pennines to join Manchester United for £29.1m, which at the time of the deal in July 2002 was a world record fee for a defender.
Ferdinand hailed the “genius” of Sir Alex Ferguson, under whom he won six Premier League titles at Manchester United, as the key factor in his career. In a statement, Ferdinand said: “After 18 years as a professional footballer, I now feel it’s the right time for me to retire from the game that I love.
“As a 12-year-old boy, kicking around a football on the Friary Estate in Peckham, I never dreamt that I would play for my boyhood club West Ham, captain Leeds United, win the Champions League with Manchester United, or re-join my first manager Harry Redknapp at Queens Park Rangers.
“I will always regard the 81 times that I played for England with immense pride. These are all treasured memories that will last a lifetime.
“Starting a career, every young man needs mentors. I found mine in Dave Goodwin, the district manager at Blackheath, and Tony Carr, the youth team manager at West Ham. They installed in me personality traits that lasted throughout my career. I will always be grateful to them.
“I’d like to thank Chris Ramsey, Harry Redknapp, David O’Leary and David Moyes who managed me at various times in my career, all the backroom staff who looked after me over the years, and the players that I played with. I would also like to thank the team who managed me off the pitch, Jamie Moralee and everybody at New Era.
“Winning trophies over my 13 years at Manchester United allowed me to achieve everything that I desired in football. From a young child to today, that was all I cared about. None of that would have been possible, without the genius of one man, Sir Alex Ferguson. His greatest accomplishment in my eyes will always be how he developed us as men, not just as footballers. He will in my opinion, always be the greatest manager in British football history.
“I’d also like to thank and pay tribute to my wife Rebecca and my family, including my mother and father, for their sacrifices, their encouragement and their advice throughout my career.
“And finally, I’d like to thank all the fans from all the clubs – for without them professional football would not exist. I will miss each and every one of you on my Saturday afternoons.”