Rio Ferdinand retirement: The Manchester United defender earned the right to call time on his England career

After 81 caps, Ferdinand will not represent his country again

Thirty million quid is a lump today. That is the sum Sir Alex Ferguson paid Leeds United for his services a decade ago. Football folk thought he was mad. As usual, Fergie knew best.

The phrase ‘footballing centre-half’ gained currency because in the British football culture it was the exception to the rule. When long balls were de rigueur in our game, players with strong backs and long necks were traditionally handed the no.5 shirt.

If the ball was on the deck for any length of time, the requirement was to lump it long as quickly as possible. Bobby Moore, Alan Hansen, Mark Lawrenson, Paul Madeley Paul McGrath were honourable exceptions, Jack Charlton, Larry Lloyd, Ian Ure, Jim Holton, Dave Watson, Steve Bould, examples of the norm.  

Thanks to the influence of foreign players since the advent of the Premier League and the shift in attitudes this has brought, it is not so easy to distinguish between styles in central defensive pairings in the modern era. The hard nut, John Terry, has acquired a refined skill set and the libero, Ferdinand, a tougher exterior.  

As a pair they represented the high watermark of English defending. Ferdinand was, of course, part of a rich crop at West Ham United that included Frank Lampard, Joe Cole and Michael Carrick. He was a central figure in what became known as the golden generation of English footballers, a group thought capable of bringing the World Cup back to the mother country.

One by one they slipped off the international stage, Paul Scholes, Michael Owen, David Beckham, John Terry and now Ferdinand. Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Ashley Cole remain, but with no real hope of realising with England the promise of youth.

Ferdinand must be considered the best English centre back since Moore, the best at Manchester United since McGrath. In his prime before the back injury flared he was quick, athletic, two-footed and solid in the air. He is no slouch now.

Like McGrath he would have been comfortable further up the pitch and could perhaps have been encouraged more by Ferguson to attack from deep. He did this to devastating effect against Reading last month to set up Rooney’s goal. And he showed pure technique with the volleyed dispatch last weekend to seal the victory in Ferguson’s last home game.

It was a fitting moment, a refined piece of skill emblematic of the qualities Ferguson sought when rebuilding his treble-winning side in the early 2000s. Ferdinand netted one Holy Grail in Moscow in 2008. In Germany two years earlier and South Africa two years later his hopes were just as high for England but under foreign management that was supposed to improve our chances on the highest stage he never came close to replicating his Champions League success with United.

I am not a fan of the international retiree, even one with 81 caps. It is the coach who decides the availability of a player, but in Ferdinand’s case we permit an exception. Having been initially retired for ‘football reasons’ on the tube by Roy Hodgson, it is only right that the last word was his.    

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral