Rio Gavin Ferdinand (born 7 November 1978) is an English former professional footballer who played as a centre-back, and current television pundit for BT Sport. He played 81 times for the England national team between 1997 and 2011, and was a member of three FIFA World Cup squads. He is regarded by many to be one of England's greatest ever players and he is one of the most decorated English footballers of all time.
Ferdinand began his football career playing for various youth teams, finally settling at West Ham
United where he progressed through the youth ranks and made his professional Premier League debut in 1996. He became a fan favourite, winning the Hammer of the Year award the following season. He earned his first senior international cap in a match against Cameroon in 1997, setting a record as the youngest defender to play for England at the time. His achievements and footballing potential attracted Leeds United and he transferred to the club for a record-breaking fee of £18 million. He spent two seasons at the club, becoming the team captain in 2001.
He joined Manchester United in July 2002 for around £30 million, breaking the transfer fee record once more. He won the Premier League, his first major club honour, in a successful first season at the club. In September 2003, he missed a drugs test and was banned from competition for eight months from January until September 2004, causing him to miss half a Premier League season, Manchester United's FA Cup triumph, and the Euro 2004 international competition. Upon his return, he established himself in the Manchester United first team and received plaudits for his performances, featuring in the PFA Team of the Year four times in five years. More club success followed with another Premier League win in the 2006–07 season and a Premier League and UEFA Champions League double the following year. His career at United, in which he won six Premier League titles and 14 trophies, ended when his contract expired in 2014, and he subsequently joined Queens Park Rangers where he played for just one season before being released from the club as a result of their relegation from the Premier League. He announced his retirement from professional football on 30 May 2015.
In September 2017, Ferdinand announced his intention to become a professional boxer, partly to help him cope with the death of his wife.
Ferdinand was born at King's College Hospital in Camberwell and grew up in Peckham. He is the son of an Irish mother, Janice Lavender, and an Afro-Saint Lucian father, Julian Ferdinand.
Ferdinand grew up in Peckham in a large family, his mother was one of six children and his father arrived in Britain with ten other family members.Both parents worked to support the family, his mother as a child carer and his father as a tailor. His parents never married and they separated when he was 14 years old. His father remained close, moving to a nearby estate, and took the kids to football training and to local parks. Ferdinand attended Camelot Primary School. At school, he focused on maths and revelled in the opportunity to perform before an audience during a school production of Bugsy Malone.
"I always as a kid wanted to do something different, I'd get bored very easily – even playing football or hanging around with my mates. So travelling away from home, meeting new people. ... I enjoyed it."
He chose to attend Blackheath Bluecoat School to make new friends and settled in well, feeling his confidence growing. His second year was marred by the death of a fellow pupil, Stephen Lawrence, and the event demonstrated the ever-present threat of violence. Ferdinand enjoyed physical expression, taking part in not just football and gymnastics classes but drama, theatre and ballet too. He was an able child: he represented Southwark in gymnastics at the London Youth Games, by age 10 he had been invited to train at the Queens Park Rangers academy, and at age 11 he won a scholarship to attend the Central School of Ballet in London. Ferdinand attended the ballet classes, travelling to the city centre four days a week for four years.
Ferdinand's superior footballing abilities were evident even as a child: when he was 11 years old a youth coach, David Goodwin, remarked "I'm going to call you Pelé, son, I like the way you play." Ferdinand was regularly playing in youth teams and at Eltham Town he played as an attacking midfielder but team scouts saw the young player had the physical potential to be a centre-back instead. Teams vied for the young footballer's services and during his youth he trained with Charlton Athletic, Chelsea, Millwall and Queens Park Rangers. Ferdinand was ever curious of different places and even travelled north to Middlesbrough's training ground, spending a good part of his school holidays in a bedsit just to be there.
London team West Ham United was to be his footballing home, however, and he joined their youth system in 1992. He signed his first Youth Training Scheme contract in January 1994 and played alongside players such as Frank Lampard at the academy. Success pending at club level, international football also began for Ferdinand; at 16 he joined the England youth-team squad to compete in their age group's UEFA European Championship, gaining his first experience of international competition.
Rio and Anton Ferdinand playing in Tony Carr's testimonial match in 2010.
Originally scouted by Frank Lampard, Ferdinand progressed through the youth-team ranks, earning a professional contract and a place in the first-team squad in the process. On 5 May 1996, he made his senior team debut, as he came on as a substitute for Tony Cottee in the Hammers' last game of the season, a 1–1 home draw against Sheffield Wednesday. During the summer of 1997, Manchester United made enquires about Ferdinand before they turned to Henning Berg after West Ham rejected any sale.
During the 1997–98 season, Ferdinand won the Hammer of the Year award at the young age of 19.
In November 1996 Ferdinand joined Bournemouth on loan. He made his debut on 9 November in a 1–1 away draw against Blackpool. He played 10 games for Bournemouth before returning to West Ham in January 1997
Ferdinand joined Premier League club Leeds United in November 2000 for £18 million, then a British transfer record as well as becoming the world's most expensive defender. Despite an uncomfortable start to his career at Elland Road, beginning with a 3–1 defeat at Leicester City on his debut, Ferdinand settled well and became an integral part of the Leeds team that reached the semi-final stage of the UEFA Champions League, scoring with a header in the quarter-final against Spain's Deportivo La Coruña. Other highlights during his spell in Yorkshire included goals against Liverpool at Anfield and a scoring return to Upton Park.
The following season, in August 2001, he became the club captain after replacing Lucas Radebe and turned in an impressive second campaign, despite Leeds' failure to break into the top three and secure qualification for the competition they had figured in so prominently during the previous season. During the 2002 FIFA World Cup, rumours began circulating that the club were in dire financial trouble and that new manager Terry Venables would be forced to part with his star defender for a substantial amount of cash. Later that summer after Ferdinand's impressive World Cup for England, Leeds accepted a bid of £29.3 million with possible performance related add-ons up to £33.3 million due to their perilous financial position. Years later, Rio admitted he sat in the office of Leeds chairman Peter Ridsdale for almost six hours to force the transfer through.
On 22 July 2002, Ferdinand joined fellow Premier League side Manchester United on a five-year deal to become the most expensive British footballer in history at the time and the world's most expensive defender for a second time, a title he had lost in 2001 to Lilian Thuram. The fee included a basic element in the high £20 millions, and some conditional elements, which allowed Leeds to tell their fans that they were selling him for over £30 million. Leeds United later took a single payment in place of all the contingent elements during their financial crisis. The final book value of Ferdinand's contract in Manchester United's accounts was £34 million. This included agents' fees, with Leeds receiving just under £30 million. Ferdinand went on to win the Premier League title with Manchester United in his first season at the club. He collected a winner's medal in the 2006 League Cup, with runners-up medals in the 2003 League Cup and the 2005 FA Cup.
In September 2003, he failed to attend a drug test scheduled to take place at United's Carrington training ground. Ferdinand had left after training to go shopping, only to remember and attempt to return, only to be told it was too late. He did undergo testing the following day and passed, and also offered to have a hair follicle test, which would provide results for the previous six months, but the FA turned down the offer. The Football Association (FA) Disciplinary Committee, chaired by Barry Bright, imposed an eight-month ban from January 2004 at club and international level and a £50,000 fine, meaning he would miss the rest of the season and some of the next along with all of Euro 2004. Manchester United appealed against the verdict and sought to draw parallels to the case of Manchester City player Christian Negouai, who was fined £2,000 for missing a test. However, FIFA president Sepp Blatter stated that such comparisons are inappropriate due to differences between the two cases. Negouai had been stuck in traffic and was willing to take the test, while Ferdinand was charged with "failure or refusal" to attend the test. Both the FA and FIFA sought to have the ban increased to 12 months (half the possible maximum). In the end, the original verdict was upheld.
On 14 December 2005, in a game against Wigan Athletic, Ferdinand scored his first goal for United, en route to a 4–0 victory. This was his first goal after more than three years at Old Trafford. He followed this up with a powerfully headed goal against West Bromwich Albion. He then scored a last minute winner against Liverpool at Old Trafford, possibly his most important Manchester United goal to date. In the corresponding fixture in the following season on 22 October 2006, Ferdinand scored again in a 2–0 victory.
Ferdinand started the 2007–08 season well, he was part of a United defence that managed to keep six clean sheets in a row in the Premier League, before conceding an early goal to Aston Villa at Villa Park on 20 October 2007. It was also during this game where Ferdinand scored his first goal of the season, which was United's third goal of that game, with a left foot strike which took a very strong deflection off one of Villa's defenders. Just three days later, Ferdinand scored his first European goal for United by opening the scoring against Dynamo Kyiv, with a superb header. United dominated the game and won 4–2.
On 12 January 2008, Ferdinand bagged a rare Premier League goal in a 6–0 hammering of Newcastle United at Old Trafford. In their FA Cup quarter-final match against Portsmouth on 8 March 2008 when Manchester United dominated, Ferdinand made a rare appearance as a goalkeeper, after Edwin van der Sar left the pitch with a groin injury and the replacement keeper, Tomasz Kuszczak, was sent off after conceding a penalty. Despite diving the right way, he was unable to save Sulley Muntari's spot kick, and Manchester United were eliminated from the FA Cup. On 6 April 2008, against Middlesbrough, Ferdinand limped out of the match due to a foot injury. He was rated doubtful whether he would face A.S. Roma in the UEFA Champions League quarter-final second leg on 9 April 2008. He would play the full 90 minutes, though he received three stitches at half-time.
After United's 2–1 loss to Chelsea in the Premier League in April 2008, Ferdinand swore at Chelsea stewards and tried to kick a wall in the tunnel, but instead kicked a female steward, Tracy Wray. Ferdinand claimed to have merely brushed her with his foot. He said he had apologised and sent the steward some flowers. However, Wray showed the bruise on her leg to the media, and her husband claimed that Ferdinand had not apologised or sent flowers.
It was announced on 18 April 2008 that, along with Michael Carrick and Wes Brown, Ferdinand had agreed to sign a new five-year contract, worth around £130,000 a week, that would keep him with United until 2013. On 21 May 2008, Ferdinand captained Manchester United to a Champions League Final victory versus Chelsea. He accepted the trophy together with Ryan Giggs, as Giggs was the on field captain for most of the matches during that season during Gary Neville's absence due to injury.
In an interview with BBC Radio 5 Live he criticised FIFA's approach to tackling racism in football, stating that not enough was being done to punish those guilty of homophobic or racist abuse at matches. Regarding taunts aimed at Emile Heskey in England's 4–1 victory against Croatia in Zagreb, Ferdinand remarked:
"Croatia were fined a few thousand quid. What's that going to do? That is not going to stop people shouting racist or homophobic abuse...If things like this keep happening you have to take points off them. Then the punters will realise the team is going to be punished."
Ferdinand had an injury plagued 2009–10 season, a number of back and knee injuries kept him on the sidelines for months. He returned to action on 28 January 2010, but was banned for four games after being found guilty of violent conduct for elbowing Hull City's Craig Fagan.
Due to a knee injury he suffered in the summer of 2010, which ruled him out of the World Cup for England, he missed all of pre-season, the Community Shield and the first four games of the 2010–11 Premier League season. He returned to first-team football in the opening game of the Champions League group stage against Rangers on 14 September. He captained the side and played the full 90 minutes in a goalless draw. He started the season opening game in August 2011, the 2011 FA Community Shield, where United found themselves 2–0 down at half time to city rivals Manchester City. Ferdinand was taken off after 45 minutes along with defensive partner Nemanja Vidić and replaced by Jonny Evans and Phil Jones respectively. United went on to win the game 3–2 and Ferdinand claimed his fourth Community Shield medal of his career. Ferdinand started in the opening Premier League match of the season at West Bromwich Albion, a game United won 2–1, but he went off with a hamstring injury after 75 minutes. After the match, Alex Ferguson confirmed that Ferdinand would be out for six weeks. Ferdinand however recovered much quicker than initially diagnosed and returned to take a place on the bench two weeks later at Old Trafford in United's 8–2 demolition of Arsenal, although he did not play a part in the game. Ferdinand made his return to competitive action in a 1–1 draw against Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium.
On 9 December 2012, Ferdinand was struck and injured by a coin thrown from the home crowd during United's 3–2 derby victory away from home against Manchester City.
On 5 March 2013, Ferdinand, unhappy with the referee Cüneyt Çakır's decision to send off Nani during a 2–1 Champions League defeat to Real Madrid at Old Trafford, clapped sarcastically in the referee's face after the game. He escaped any punishment from UEFA for the incident.
On 12 May 2013, Ferdinand scored the winner and final goal of the Alex Ferguson era at Old Trafford in a 2–1 victory over Swansea City. After a corner was missed by everyone, the ball found its way to Ferdinand at the back post and he hit it on the volley to seal the win. On 23 May 2013, it was announced that Ferdinand had secured a new one-year contract that would see him stay with the club until the end of the 2013–14 season. He was not offered an extension when that contract expired, and agreed to leave Manchester United on 12 May 2014. In a letter on his official website, he said "I am feeling fit and healthy, ready for a new challenge and looking forward to whatever the future holds for me.