After almost 20 seasons of being one of the best defenders in English football, Rio Ferdinand announced his retirement on May 30th. Ferdinand spent his youth and the beginning of his professional career playing for West Ham United from 1996-2000, making over 100 appearances for the Hammers.
In 2000, Ferdinand became the world’s most expensive defender, when he was sold for £18 million to Leeds United. After initially taking time to adapt to his new club, Ferdinand became integral to the team, steering them to the semi finals of the Champions League. He was also named in the PFA team of the year in 2001. Even with the success, Ferdinand did not spend long with Leeds and was sold to Manchester United in 2002 in the wake of their financial troubles.
The move cost Manchester United over £29 million, once again making Ferdinand the world’s most expensive defender, along with being the most expensive British player in history. With United, Ferdinand got to experience championship football, winning the Premier League in his first year with the club, and he was named to the Team of the Year four more times (04-05, 06-07, 07-08, 08-09), with the 06-07 team consisting of seven of his Manchester teammates. In May of 2008, Ferdinand captained United to the Champion’s League Final, and got to hoist the trophy after being Chelsea in a penalty shoot out.
During his time at Old Trafford, Ferdinand won six Premier League titles, one FA Cup, three League Cups, six FA Community Shields, the Champion’s League, the UEFA Super Cup and a FIFA Club World Cup.
Ferdinand’s international career was equally impressive. He was capped 81 times by England, and was named to four World Cup squads, making appearances in 2002 and 2006.
When asked about his time playing with Ferdinand, Paul Scholes said,
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 play in front of. To play in front of him, he made your job so easy.
Rio Ferdinand will be remembered as one of the best defenders of the 2000’s, always playing an integral role in Manchester United’s many titles during his 12 year run at Old Trafford and as a leader of the national team.