The reaction: Rio Ferdinand retires from England

The Manchester United defender has called time on his international career

Harry Redknapp claims he knew Rio Ferdinand would become one of the best defenders in the world from a young age in the wake of the Manchester United centre-half announcing his international retirement today.

QPR boss Redknapp was in charge at West Ham when Ferdinand made his England debut in 1997 and the 34-year-old went on to make 80 more appearances for his country while playing for Leeds and at Old Trafford.

Ferdinand moved to the Red Devils in 2002 from Elland Road but Redknapp has revealed he rebuffed an approach from Sir Alex Ferguson's men while the player was still in east London.

"We knew from day one he was going to be a special player," Redknapp told talkSPORT. "He was lightning quick and graceful on the ball.

"He had everything

"I loaned him to Bournemouth and Man United came in. (Chairman) Martin Edwards rang Bournemouth football club, he rang Mel Machin who was the manager and asked Mel how much he wanted for the young centre-half.

"They'd seen him play on the Saturday at Rochdale or somewhere and Mel said 'well he's only on loan, he belongs to West Ham'. Martin Edwards didn't realise that.

"He came on and wanted to buy him and I said 'he hasn't got a price, he'll be the best defender in Europe one day'.

"Eventually he ended up a Man Utd but for an awful lot of money."

Ferdinand has cited a desire to focus on his club career as one of the reasons for his decision to exit the international stage and Redknapp believes he still has a lot to offer to incoming United boss David Moyes.

"People say he has lost his pace," he added. "Well he may have lost a yard but he is still as quick as anybody because he was so quick (to begin with).

"I'm sure he will do a great job for David if he sees him in his plans at Old Trafford."

Ferdinand confirmed his decision this morning, the day before Roy Hodgson is due to name his England squad for the friendlies against Republic of Ireland and Brazil.

It was thought Ferdinand had a chance of being involved despite the furore that accompanied his withdrawal in March, when he was recalled for crucial World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Montenegro, only to withdraw citing an "intricate and pre-planned training regime".

Danny Mills played with Ferdinand both for Leeds and England and the former full-back believes the withdrawal earlier this year will have played a big part in his decision.

"I don't think it's a great surprise after what happened last time," Mills told Sky Sports News.

"Rio obviously wanted to be in the squads then realised with all his rehabilitation, he wasn't going to be able to play back-to-back games.

"That effectively ruled him out of anymore double headers if you like and possibly also ruled him out of tournament football for England.

"He possibly would have made himself available for the next friendlies and the games in the summer but he's probably looked at it and thought actually, after what happened last time, the chances are Roy Hodgson may not select him.

"So maybe Rio has done the right thing, has retired before there is a chance that he doesn't get selected."

Former England striker Gary Lineker took to Twitter to pay tribute to Ferdinand's England career, saying on the social media website: "rioferdy5 has retired from international football. A world class defender for more than a decade. Wish him well."

Joey Barton, who earned a single England cap in 2007, also took to Twitter following Ferdinand's announcement to mischievously declare his own international retirement.

"Decided to announce my international retirement as well," he said. "I was honoured to represent my country for such a long, illustrious time. £sadtimes.

"Decided to focus on being fit at club level. Hope everyone understands."

He then tweeted a picture of a man fishing, with the comment "My favourite picture from my long, illustrious international career..."

Ferdinand has formed a key part of the England defence for over a decade, establishing partnerships with first Sol Campbell and, perhaps most famously, John Terry.

That has made spots in the England back-line notoriously hard to come by and Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher feels he would have significantly more than his 38 caps had Ferdinand not been around.

The 35-year-old, who retires at the end of this season, said: "If he'd retired years ago I might have got a few more games!

"He has been a great player.

"He's a similar age to me so it was always going to come up (competition for places) at one time or another.

"He and John Terry were the cornerstones of the England side for 10 years - which made it difficult for me to get in - but two great players and I wish him well."

PA

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