Rio Ferdinand, arguably the finest of England's so called Golden Generation, retires from international duty

34-year-old whom won 81 caps wants to allow 'younger players to come through'

Rio Ferdinand, who became England's youngest ever defender when he made his debut against Cameroon in 1997, has announced his retirement from international football.

The defender, who won 81 caps for his country after making his debut against Cameroon at Wembley in 1997, has confirmed his retirement from England to concentrate on his  Manchester United career and "younger players to come through."

Arguably the finest of England’s so called Golden Generation, he has been praised throughout his career for his ability to read the game and defend with composure.

"After a great deal of thought, I have decided the time is right for me to retire from international football," Ferdinand said in statement this morning. "At the age of 34, I feel it is right for me to stand aside and let the younger players come through, which allows me to concentrate on my club career."

"The team looks in great shape and there is an influx of young, talented players coming through the ranks which bodes well for the future.

Ferdinand added: "I regard it as a great honour and a privilege to have represented my country at every level from U17s upwards.

"I have always been very proud to play for England. I would like to wish Roy and the team all the best for future tournaments.

"A big thank you to all fans, managers, coaching staff and players that I have worked alongside - the journey has been incredible."

England manager Roy Hodgson said: "It is important to pay tribute to someone of Rio's stature and the achievements he had in a senior international career with England over 14 years at the highest level.

"To have captained his country, to play at three World Cups and indeed score in one of those, marks him out amongst a very special group of players."

Ferdinand's decision means Hodgson will have to look at alternatives for the Ireland and Brazil friendlies given Chris Smalling is injured and Joleon Lescott out of form. Former England captain John Terry has made himself available for selection after initially retiring from intertainal duty. Without actually playing a game, Ferdinand has dominated Hodgson's reign so far.

He was recalled to the England squad for World Cup qualifying matches against San Marino and Montenegro in March but pulled out four days later due to concerns over a long-standing back injury. The decision was interpreted as a snub to Hodgson after it was revealed he had instead travelled to Qatar to undertake media commitments despite claiming his fitness programme would not allow him to play for England.

Club England managing director Adrian Bevington added: "On behalf of The FA I'd like to thank Rio for his commitment to England.

"He came through the ranks from the U17s team and earned 81 senior caps for England, an amazing achievement.

"He has had a great career with the national team and was part of three World Cup squads.

"Rio has explained his decision to the England manager Roy Hodgson and we wish him all the best for the future."

Manchester United paid Leeds United £29.3m back in 2002 to sign Ferdinand. The Red Devils won the Premier League in his first season.

Ferdinand is out of contract at the end of the season but he is keen to stay and renew his £120,000 a week contract.

Recent international career highs and lows

2010: February 5 - Succeeds John Terry as England skipper after Chelsea defender is stripped of post by manager Fabio Capello following allegations about Terry's private life.

June 4 - Ruled out of World Cup after injuring ligaments in his left knee in training.

2011: March 19 - Loses England captaincy to Terry, ahead of Euro 2012 qualifier against Wales.

2012: February - Rules himself out of the running to captain England after Terry is stripped of the duty pending the outcome of a July trial. Terry is due to answer a charge of racially abusing Ferdinand's brother, QPR defender Anton Ferdinand, but is later acquitted.

May 16 - Left out of England's squad for Euro 2012. He later writes on Twitter: "Absolutely loved playing for england... to say I'm gutted is an understatement of the highest order..."

August 17 - Fined £45,000 by the FA for acknowledging a tweet which referred to Ashley Cole - who gave evidence in defence of John Terry in his trial - as a 'choc ice'.

December 9 - Struck by a coin thrown from the crowd at Manchester City's Etihad Stadium as United claim a 3-2 derby victory.

2013: March 5 - Escapes UEFA action after sarcastically applauding Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir at the end of home defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League.

March 14 - Recalled to the England squad for World Cup qualifying matches against San Marino and Montenegro but pulls out four days later due to concerns over a long-standing back injury.

March 21 - Forced to defend his decision to fly to Qatar to work as a television pundit for England's game against San Marino. Hodgson responds by saying he will "wait and see" when asked about Ferdinand's international future.

May 15 - Announces his retirement from England duty.

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