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Last Updated: Saturday, 18 September, 2004, 10:56 GMT 11:56 UK
England star who courts controversy
England's Rio Ferdinand
Ferdinand failed in his appeal
Rio Ferdinand's eight-month ban for failing to take a routine drugs test was not the first time his career has been dogged by controversy.

While his talent on the pitch has made him the most expensive British player of all time, he has all too often made headlines on the front pages of the UK's newspapers as well as the back pages.

Ferdinand began his footballing career at West Ham where he made his professional debut in 1996.

One of a group of talented youngsters at the club at the time, Ferdinand made a name for himself as a skilful ball-playing defender, and comparisons were immediately made with former West Ham and England captain Bobby Moore.

Ferdinand's form was soon recognised by England manager Glenn Hoddle, who called him up for a World Cup qualifier against Moldova in 1997.

But he chose to celebrate the news by going out drinking with friends, and was stopped by police while driving under the influence of alcohol as he made his way home, and was banned from driving for 12 months.

However, his club form remained good and he made his England debut later that year in a friendly against Cameroon.

RIO FERDINAND FACTFILE
Born: 07/11/78
Club: Manchester United
England caps: 33
England goals: 1
November 2000: Joins Leeds from West Ham for record 18m fee
July 2002: Signs for Man Utd for new record of 30m
September 2003: Fails to attend routine drugs test after training
December 2003: Ferdinand given eight-month ban
September 2004: His ban served, Ferdinand is ready to return to action.
The following year Ferdinand was rewarded by being named in the England squad at the World Cup finals in France, although he did not appear in any of the games.

While his England appearances became more regular over the next two years, he was not chosen to be part of the squad for Euro 2000.

The England team crashed out in the first round, and Ferdinand and a number of other young English players who were not involved brought more shame on football with their behaviour on holiday in the Cypriot resort of Ayia Napa.

Video tapes of the players drinking heavily and filming each other having sex with girls they had picked up reached a Sunday newspaper and caused a scandal.

But Ferdinand put the incident behind him with an 18m move to Leeds in November 2000 that smashed the British transfer record.

His playing reputation grew as Leeds reached the Champions League semi-finals, and his performances made him a regular in the England team.

And he emerged as a true international star during the 2002 World Cup, and subsequently moved from Leeds to Manchester United for 30m - a British record fee and the most any club in the world has paid for a defender.

Despite what was by his own admission an inconsistent first season at Old Trafford, Ferdinand helped United wrest the league title back from Arsenal.

But once again his successes were tempered by another court appearance - this time he was banned from driving for six months for speeding.

It is not surprising that these scandalous incidents are reported more widely than his very real charitable efforts, including visiting young offenders insitutions, and work with the Prince's Trust and the NSPCC and underprivileged children.

But now with his ban served, Ferdinand is ready to make headlines back on the field.

He has had plenty of time to reflect on his actions, and the price paid by others, as well as himself during his ban.

Although the blame cannot be laid solely at one man's door, United's Premiership challenge buckled in his absence, and who knows how different England's Euro 2004 campaign could have been had Ferdinand been in the ranks?

Just one month into the season, and already the talk from United boss Sir Alex Ferguson is of Ferdinand coming back to rescue their season.



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