Rio Ferdinand is on the lookout for a new club after Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward informed him that he will not have his contract renewed, meaning he is free to leave at the end of the season.
Ferdinand, 35, has given 12-years of loyal service to United, but was robbed of a swansong and farewell appearance after he was informed he would not be needed at Old Trafford next season after the final match of the season – the 1-1 draw at Southampton on Sunday.
After 455 appearances for United having been signed by Sir Alex Ferguson in 2002 from Leeds in a then-British record £30m transfer, Ferdinand is preparing to move on, and believes that he is still fit and healthy and can continue his playing career.
With the news breaking on Monday night, Ferdinand spoke to express his thanks to both the players and staff at United, as well as the loyal support of the club’s fans over the years.
“I have thought long and hard over the last few months about my future, and after 12 fantastic years playing, for what I regard, as the best club in the world, I have decided the time is right for me to move on,” said Ferdinand.
“I joined Manchester United in the hope of winning trophies, and never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined how successful we would be during my time here. There have been so many highlights, playing alongside some great players who have become good friends, winning my first Premier League title and also that fantastic night in Moscow are memories that I will cherish forever.
“I am feeling fit and healthy, ready for a new challenge and looking forward to whatever the future holds for me.”
So where could Ferdinand end up?
Should he wish to remain in the Premier League, a number of clubs would offer Ferdinand a chance to play out his latter days, although his wages could prove a problem for those in the bottom half of the table. However, one option could be a return to West Ham, the club whose academy he came through and made his name at before leaving for Leeds in 2000.
The Hammers do have the resources available to fund his salary having shown a willingness to spend in bringing in striker Andy Carroll last season on a permanent deal. Manager Sam Allardyce also saw his defence depleted by injury during the season and it is an area of concern that he will want to address, although his own future will come first given the reports that he could soon be sacked.
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Arsenal have also emerged as a shock suitor for Ferdinand, should Thomas Vermaelen leave the club after falling behind Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny in the pecking order. A move to the Emirates – reported by The Mirror – would be very surprising, although Arsene Wenger has tapped into United’s aging free agent service in the past when he signed Mikael Silvestre in 2008. Needless to say after two unsuccessful years in which he made just 26 league appearances, Silvestre moved on.
The Frenchman now plays in the MLS with the Portland Timbers, and the United States of America is also a possibility for Ferdinand given he is looking for a “new challenge”. David Beckham’s former side LA Galaxy are rumoured to be interested in Ferdinand, and America would promise the centre-back a lucrative ending to his illustrious career should he wish to travel across the pond.
Turkey or the Middle East
There is also reported interest coming from Qatari side Al Gharafa as well as Turkish clubs Galatasaray – who are managed by former Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini – and Besiktas. If a move to Turkey interests Ferdinand, he would most likely prefer the league runners-up over Besiktas, with the likes of Didier Drogba, Wesley Sneijder and Emmanuel Eboue all turning out under the guidance of the proven Italian.
And if Ferdinand fancies a new challenge on the other side of the world, he could follow Emile Heskey, Alessandro Del Piero and Harry Kewell in joining a side in the A-League in Australia. Heskey, who played alongside Ferdinand in the England squad for a number of years, currently turns out for Newcastle Jets, while Italian legend Del Piero recently left Sydney FC and could look for a move to the MLS.
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