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One of the most decorated players in the modern era, Rio’s career took in over 600 appearances for club and country, including over 300 games for a Manchester United team that won six Premier League titles and the Premier League and Champions’ League double. He has since become a popular pundit, he has interests in business and his own charitable foundation, and was lauded for his frank discussion of his experience of bereavement and mental health.
Rio Ferndinand is one of the most famous faces in English football with one of the most decorated careers on the pitch. Now a regular pundit on TV and a broadcaster in his own right, as a player he won over a dozen major club honours and was picked in four PFA Team of the Year selections.
As a youngster, Rio attracted the eye of West Ham’s scouts whilst playing central midfield for Eltham Town’s under-14s team. He joined the Hammers as a schoolboy, aged fourteen. Upon leaving school at sixteen, he ignored overtures from Middlesbrough, Norwich City, Millwall, Charlton and Chelsea in order to stay with the east London club. Club boss Harry Redknapp, well-known for developing youth players, nurtured Rio’s talent and gave his full-team debut as a substitute against Sheffield Wednesday at Upton Park. The following season saw Rio loaned to Bournemouth for two character-building months in the Football League before returning to West Ham. Six goals and 152 appearances later he moved to Leeds United, then a rapidly rising force in the Premier League, for a record £18million fee. He became captain and a key part of the team that reached its first ever Champions’ League semi-final.
Combining strength with a technical skill and confidence on the ball that few defenders at the time had, Rio gained admirers across football. Already the youngest defender ever to play for England whilst at West Ham, he was a part of the 1998 World Cup team and established himself as a world-class player. He went on to play 81 times for England, was a part of four consecutive World Cup teams, and was vice-captain.
Rio broke the transfer record again with a high-profile move to Manchester United. He quickly established himself in Alex Ferguson’s team and won the Premier League in his first season with the club. He would be a part of a team that would win the title six times as well as the Champions’ League, the Club World Cup, and three League Cups. By the time he left United the team had won 15 trophies and become arguably the most successful club in English football.
After a farewell season at Queens Park Rangers, Rio retired from professional football. Since then he has become a regular on TV and a popular pundit for the BBC and BT Sport’s coverage. Away from sport he made the BBC documentary Rio Ferdinand: Being Mum and Dad where he discussed bereavement and mental health, subjects he has returned to and, along with racism in sport, he is an active campaigner around. He also plays an active part in his own charitable foundation helping young people from deprived areas, and a social housing project near Luton. He has also been involved in a record label, a digital magazine, and a film production.
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