Rio Ferdinand retires from England duty
Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand has announced his international retirement after winning 81 caps for England.
Ferdinand confirmed his decision on Wednesday morning, the day before Roy Hodgson is due to name his England squad for the friendlies against Republic of Ireland and Brazil.
It was thought Ferdinand had a chance of being involved despite the furore that accompanied his withdrawal in March, when he was recalled for crucial World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Montenegro, only to withdraw citing an "intricate and pre-planned training regime".
But the 34-year-old is expected to sign a new contract with Manchester United this summer.
And, with David Moyes replacing Sir Alex Ferguson in the summer, Ferdinand has decided the time is right to concentrate on club matters.
"After a great deal of thought, I have decided the time is right for me to retire from international football," said Ferdinand.
"At the age of 34, I feel it is right for me to stand aside and let the younger players come through, which allows me to concentrate on my club career. The team looks in great shape and there is an influx of young, talented players coming through the ranks which bodes well for the future."
Ferguson said earlier this month that he felt Ferdinand had just had his best ever season. It seemed like an extreme statement. But it is true that Ferdinand has had an outstanding campaign.
He collected his sixth Premier League title winners' medal on Sunday and made 33 appearances overall, even scoring that splendid late winner against Swansea that ensured Ferguson's final game at Old Trafford was a victorious one.
His performances would certainly have brought an international recall were it not for the fact he pulled out of those World Cup qualifiers, having previously highlighted how keen he was to play for England.
It is probably not the way he would have wanted to end his 81-cap Three Lions career, particularly given the recriminations that followed his omission from Hodgson's Euro 2012 squad, which the coach insisted was for "football reasons" but Ferdinand always suspected it was a direct result of John Terry's presence.
However, Ferguson was sceptical about the defender's chances of balancing international and club involvement given the way he manages the long-standing back complaint that at one point threatened his entire career.
And now, with a new manager to impress, Ferdinand has reached the same conclusion.
"I regard it as a great honour and a privilege to have represented my country at every level from under-17s upwards," he said. "I have always been very proud to play for England. I would like to wish Roy and the team all the best for future tournaments.
"A big thank you to all the fans, managers, coaching staff and players that I have worked alongside - the journey has been incredible."
It means Hodgson will have to look at alternatives for the Ireland and Brazil friendlies given Chris Smalling is injured and Joleon Lescott out of form. Without actually playing a game, Ferdinand has dominated Hodgson's reign so far. And the England boss paid due tribute to the former West Ham man on Wednesday morning.
"It is important to pay tribute to someone of Rio's stature and the achievements he had in a senior international career with England over 14 years at the highest level," Hodgson told the FA's website.
"To have captained his country, to play at three World Cups and indeed score in one of those, marks him out amongst a very special group of players. I appreciated the call from Rio to inform me of his decision, which clearly he had spent much time considering before reaching this point.
"I wish him all the best in his club career, and I'm sure the former managers he played under and every England fan will join me in thanking him for his service."
Club England managing director Adrian Bevington added: "On behalf of The FA, I'd like to thank Rio for his commitment to England.
"He came through the ranks from the U17s team and earned 81 senior caps for England, an amazing achievement. He has had a great career with the national team and was part of three World Cup squads.
"Rio has explained his decision to the England manager Roy Hodgson and we wish him all the best for the future."