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Sunday, 21 July, 2002, 14:30 GMT 15:30 UK
Rio's remarkable rise
Rio Ferdinand celebrates scoring for England during the World Cup
Ferdinand underlined his talent at the World Cup
BBC Sport Online profiles Rio Ferdinand, who is set to complete a record-breaking 30m move to Manchester United.

As a schoolboy at West Ham, Rio Ferdinand was always regarded as a back for the future.

A cultured defender who would rather drop his shoulder and feint past the opposing striker than take the row Z option.

Now, after a series of impressive performances in the World Cup, Ferdinand is not just the future, but also the commanding figure in the present.

Vital tackles, a calm demeanour and quality distribution characterised Ferdinand's displays in Japan.

Quite simply he was England's best player - and with England's biggest club in need of a central defender it came as little surprise when the rumours began that Ferdinand would be joining Manchester United.

  Ferdinand Factfile
1996: West Ham debut against Sheffield Wednesday
1997: Scores first goal for West Ham in 2-1 defeat at Blackburn in February. Full international debut against Cameroon in November
1998: Named in the England squad for the World Cup finals
1999: Makes his 100th Premiership appearance against Leicester in January
2000: Left out of the England squad for Euro 2000
November 22: Moves to Leeds for 18m
June 2002: Impresses at World Cup for England
July 2002: Man Utd agree 30m for him

If Ferdinand's 30m move to Old Trafford goes through, he will become the world's most expensive defender and Britain's costliest player

It is a far cry from the modest Friary Estate in Peckham, London, where Ferdinand grew up.

But then Ferdinand is a player with a special talent, that most rare of British footballers - a ball-playing central defender.

He signed for West Ham as a schoolboy in 1994 and comparisons with former England and West Ham captain Bobby Moore have come thick and fast ever since.

Ferdinand made his breakthrough in the West Ham first team in the 1996/ 97 season.

By the end of that campaign, he was already one of the first names on Hammers' boss Harry Redknapp's team sheet.

His consistency and grace under fire cemented his position in the England Under-21 side and made him a fans' favourite in east London.

Redknapp eulogised Rio's special talent, while trying to keep his prized asset at the club.

But eventually - in November 2000 - ambitious, cash-happy Leeds came calling and Ferdinand made the move north for 18m.

At Elland Road Ferdinand answered his critics in the most emphatic manner - on the pitch.

He proved wrong the doubters who said that he could not play in a back four and he emerged as a natural leader on the field, eventually made the team's captain.

The move to Yorkshire - and the regular European competition that it brought - boosted Ferdinand's England standing.

This is not to say that Ferdinand's meteoric rise has not been without its problems.

Shortly after his England debut in 1997 he was convicted of drink-driving, leaving Glenn Hoddle, England coach at that time, with no choice but to drop him.

His behaviour on a summer holiday to Cyprus also did little to help his cause.

Rio Ferdinand in action for West Ham
Ferdinand was a special talent at West Ham

And he failed to make the cut for Kevin Keegan's final 22 at Euro 2000.

But he was superb several months later as Peter Taylor's young England team narrowly lost to Italy in Turin.

And he has been an integral part of the team since Sven-Goran Eriksson's was appointed England coach.

Ferdinand believes Manchester United are a club that can match his lofty ambitions.

For the 23-year-old believes the time has come for his talent finally to be translated into trophies.

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 ON THIS STORY
BBC Sport's Rob Watson
"The World Cup made Ferdinand"

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21 Jul 02 | Eng Prem
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