Rio Gavin Ferdinand (born November 7th, 1978 in Peckham, London) is an English footballer of mixed St Lucian and Anglo-Irish descent. He plays at centre-back for Manchester United in the FA Premier League and at the international level for the England national football team. He has achieved more than 50 caps for the English national team, and has been selected for three FIFA World Cup squads.
Ferdinand's cousin is former English international striker Les Ferdinand, while his brother Anton plays for West Ham United. Ferdinand signed as a schoolboy for West Ham United in 1992 while a student at Blackheath Bluecoat school and became a professional player under their youth system. He made his first team debut on 5 May 1996 as a substitute in 1-1 home draw against Sheffield Wednesday.
Ferdinand joined FA Premier League football club Leeds United in November 2000 for £18 million, then a British transfer record, as well as becoming the world's most expensive defender. In August 2001, he became the captain of Leeds.
On 22 July 2002, Ferdinand joined another Premier League club, Manchester United, on a five year deal to become the most expensive British footballer in history, the world's most expensive defender again (a title he had lost in 2001 to Lilian Thuram) and also the premier league's second most expensive player after the arrival of Andriy Shevchenko to Chelsea (whose transfer price was also about £30 million but is believed that Shevchenko's price is greater). The fee included a basic element in the high twenty millions, and some conditional elements, which allowed Leeds to tell their fans that the were selling him for over thirty million. Leeds later took a single payment in place of all the contingent elements when they were desperate for cash during their financial crisis. The final book value of Ferdinand's contract in Manchester United's accounts was £31.12 million. This included agents' fees of £400k, with Leeds receiving £30.72 million.
Ferdinand went on to win the Premier League championship with Manchester United in his first season. He has also collected a winner's medal in the League Cup (2006) and runners-up medals in the League Cup (2003) and the FA Cup (2005).
Before 14 December 2005, he had never scored a goal for United, despite Ferdinand coming up for nearly every corner kick and attacking free-kick. It was only against Wigan Athletic, where he finally scored, en-route to a 4-0 victory over their opponents. 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, Rio scored again in a 2-0 victory. Ferdinand and his brother held an informal competition on how many goals they could score during the 2005-06 season (neither being prolific goal scorers), which Rio won 3-2.
Ferdinand earned his full England cap as a substitute in a friendly against Cameroon on 15 November 1997 making him the youngest defender to play for England, a record broken in 2006 by Micah Richards. At the age of 19, he was selected for the 1998 FIFA World Cup squad as a back-up defender he was not good enough to play, but was a first choice player at the 2002 and 2006 tournaments. Ferdinand has played ten World Cup matches for England, the team in these games have kept seven clean sheets and conceded just four goals whilst he was on the pitch (he was substituted before Henrik Larsson scored for Sweden in the 2006 World Cup).
Ferdinand fulfilled his promise as a world-class defender during the 2002 World Cup, where his partnership with Sol Campbell helmed the stingiest defence during the tournament and he was immediately hailed as the finished product as a result for his confident marshalling of the English defence. It was his performance during this tournament - along with Leeds United's spiralling debts - which prompted Manchester United to buy him.
In 2003 he failed to attend a drugs test, claiming he had forgotten because he was preoccupied with moving houses. Ferdinand was banned for missing the test. The FA 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 league season and some of the next along with all of Euro 2004. Manchester United's appeals to have the ban reduced were turned down. John Terry replaced him in the England side until his return on 9 October 2004 in their World Cup qualifier against Wales.
The Ferdinand drug test saga has caused a huge debate over how footballers found guilty of drug offences should be treated. One of Manchester United's reasons for appealing against the ban was that a Manchester City player had also missed a drugs test but escaped with just a £2,000 fine. However, this case was fairly different, as the player was only late for his test, taking the test two hours later. Several seasons earlier, Ipswich midfielder Adam Tanner had been banned for just three months after failing a drugs test, Adrian Mutu was also banned for only seven months after failing a drugs test which was after Rio's ban was handed out. These precedents led some to claim that Ferdinand had been made an example, and that the lengthening of his ban to cover Euro 2004 is evidence of this. It should be noted that Ferdinand was paid in full during his ban by the club, around £4 million pounds.
Ferdinand's girlfriend Rebecca Ellison gave birth to Lorenz in 2006.