Ex-Leeds and Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand announces retirement

The defender has called an end to his glittering career at the age of 36.

QPR defender Rio Ferdinand has announced his retirement from football in a statement live on BT Sport.

The former Manchester United defender, 36, has found playing time at relegated Rangers hard to come by this season and has decided to bring his long and illustrious career to an end at the Londoners.

Picking out a particular highlight of his career, he says that his 81 caps for England, a spell which saw him captain the national side as well, will always be his most treasured memories.

“After 18 years as a professional footballer, I now feel it's the right time for me to retire from the game that I love,” he said.

“I will always regard the 81 times that I played for England, with immense pride. These are all treasured memories that will last a lifetime. As a 12-year-old boy I never dreamt that I would play for my boyhood club West Ham, captain Leeds United, win the Champions League with Manchester United, or re-join my first manager Harry Redknapp at Queens Park Rangers.”

After breaking through among a talented group of youngsters at West Ham United, Ferdinand went on to join Leeds United in an £18 million pound deal, making him not only the most expensive British transfer ever, but the world’s most expensive defender as well.

In July 2002 he joined Manchester United, for a fee reported by the BBC to be around £30m, once again becoming the most expensive defender in world football. His 12 years at Old Trafford would see him win numerous titles, cups and even a Champions League, forming a formidable partnership with centre-half colleague Nemanja Vidic.

And Ferdinand was keen to thank former manager Sir Alex Ferguson for helping him achieve his goals.

“Winning trophies over my 13 years at Manchester United allowed me to achieve everything that I desired in football. From a young child to today, that was all I cared about,” he added.

“None of that would have been possible without the genius of one man, Sir Alex Ferguson. His greatest accomplishment in my eyes will always be how he developed us as men, not just as footballers. He will, in my opinion, always be the greatest manager in British football history.”

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