One of the most expensive defenders in British transfer history, Rio Ferdinand established a reputation as an elegant and sophisticated player. Growing up in Peckham, London, he joined West Ham United’s academy system after also spending several years at ballet school. He made his first team debut in 1996, aged 17. Alongside fellow West Ham prospect Frank Lampard, he was even invited to train with the Euro 96 squad by Terry Venables. The following year he made his debut for the senior England team. Making 81 appearances for England in total, he also captained the Three Lions on many occasions.
"I regard the 81 times I played for England with immense pride. These are treasured memories that will last a lifetime." - Rio Ferdinand
In 2000 Leeds United broke the British transfer record to sign Ferdinand for £18 million. This also made him the most expensive defender in the world. After two seasons financial problems at Leeds led to his transfer to Manchester United. Rio had been named in FIFA's team of the tournament at the 2002 World Cup during the summer, his pace, reading of the game and composure on the ball confirming the early promise to be a truly great centre half.
The £30 million fee paid by United again broke the British transfer record. Spending 12 years in Manchester, he won six Premier League titles, three League Cups, 1 European Cup and 1 World Club Cup, again captaining the side on many occasions.
When Ferdinand retired in 2015, former teammate Paul Scholes said about him, “He was a great player, without a doubt the best centre-half I ever played with. I would say for a time as well he was the best centre-half in the world. He was such a pleasure to play with and play in front of. To play in front of him, he made your job so easy."
Clubs: West Ham United, Leeds United, Manchester United, Queens Park Rangers
Honours: 1 Champions League, 6 Premier Leagues, 3 League Cups
Caps: 81, 3 goals