Following Saturday’s thrilling FA Cup final, guest pundit Rio Ferdinand candidly told BT Sport that he will decide his future after a brief family vacation.
The news incited an excitable Jake Humphrey to link the veteran centre-half with the newly honoured FA Cup winners, Arsenal, much to the surprise of Ferdinand who bashfully equivocated.
With Arsenal the unlikeliest of next steps for the ex-England star, let’s assess some potential, more realistic next-steps.
A return to the East-end of London has been mooted, with West Ham reportedly keen on their ex-youth-turned-pro. Ferdinand climbed from the Hammers esteemed academy eventually making 127 senior appearances, before his £18 million move to Leeds United.
A return to his boyhood club could be an attractive option for the big #5, with West Ham also keen on reinforcements. However, West Ham’s centre-back pairing of Tomkins and Reid was key for their side last season, with any dismantling proving potentially disastrous. Would Rio be up for playing second fiddle at West Ham? At this stage in his career, I’d assume not.
Steve Bruce has already stated an interest in bringing the one time world's-most-expensive-defender to the KC Stadium next season. The FA Cup runners-up may not offer the most glamorous stage for Ferdinand’s encore, although Bruce, an ex-Manchester United centre-back himself, might be able to persuade him. Plus, Hull City owner Assem Allam reportedly has the financial influence to incentivise such a deal.
Newly promoted club
Leicester City, Burnley and either Derby County or QPR will all be playing Premier League football next season, with an experienced defender no doubt high on their summer wish lists. Rio Ferdinand would be a great signing for any of these clubs, even if only for one season. Ferdinand’s final contract demands are likely to be astronomical meaning only Leicester and QPR could potentially back such a move. London based club QPR would have the advantage due to ex-West Ham manager Harry Redknapp’s management of Rio a decade ago and could persuade him to play alongside his brother Anton.
One final big contract regularly proves an irresistible attraction to ageing Premier League stars – a front Major League Soccer can deliver on. The promise of involvement in an emergent league also allures, and with old West Ham and England teammate Defoe having already cashed in, Rio would have familiar company. Whether he’ll land at Henry’s New York Red Bulls, Defoe’s Toronto FC or Cudicini’s LA Galaxy remains to be seen, although LA Galaxy have allegedly made enquiries.
Perhaps Ferdinand will simply call time on an illustrious playing career. However, if he’s physically fit enough to endure one or two more seasons, it could well be worth prolonging his pitch time.