Sporting Rock Stars: Rio Ferdinand

There are great footballers, there are great businessmen, and then there is Rio Ferdinand. This summer, Ferdinand – the man who puts the ‘baller’ in ‘footballer’ – will finally part ways with Manchester United, the team he has represented for over a decade.

Rio, who grew up in Peckham, started his professional career at West Ham, before moving to Leeds United for a record transfer fee of £18m in 2000. Rio was then shipped off to rivals Manchester United for a fee that eventually crept over £30m, and at the time made Ferdinand the most expensive British footballer in history.

When Nemanja Vidic arrived at United in 2006, it was a match made in heaven. Rio, along with his new defensive partner, had an incredibly successful career at United, winning six Premier League titles, a Champions League, and two League Cups. Being a great footballer, however, is only part of the Rio Ferdinand story; his rock star credentials are immaculate too. In fact, testing positive for significant levels of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, Rio’s eventful personal life is more the reason for his place in this column.

First, there’s the sex. As with any rock star, the truth here is clouded by a haze of ambiguity, suppressed allegations and accusatory tabloid headlines. In April 2010, shortly after Rio had been appointed England captain for the approaching World Cup, The Sunday Mirror ran an article entitled ‘My Affair with England Captain Rio’, based on the allegations of interior designer Carly Storey. Ferdinand’s efforts to silence Storey and receive compensation backfired: in the resulting trial, the court heard of alleged affairs with ten other women, involving: a threesome in Ayia Napa, a Page Three girl, two models, a stripper, an air hostess and a Pop Idol hopeful (probably not at the same time). The Ayia Napa story was particularly juicy, with a rather explict videotape surfacing in the documentary Sex, Footballers, and Videotape.

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However, Ferdinand is perhaps more no- torious for his run-in with the drug-testing authorities. In September 2003, the defender missed a scheduled drugs test. He received an eight-month punishment ban, despite passing a doping test twenty-four hours later. But the truth as to Rio’s actual use of drugs then is far from clear.

Ferdinand has actual rock star pretentions: according to United legend and MUTV regular Paddy Crerand, “Rio thinks he’s Snoop the Dogg”. In 2005, he created the record label ‘White Chalk Music’, and hasn’t looked back since, signing a grand total of two artists – superstars Melody Johnston and Nia Jai – who have become less than household names. Rio himself even graced the latter’s 2010 album with a rap of his own. But perhaps Ferdinand’s most important foray into the music industry – both for the artist and the industry itself – was his 2009 rendition of rapper Kano’s ‘Rock n Rolla’ at a karaoke night at a tapas bar.

With a rap sheet (excuse the pun) which extends far longer than this column allows, frankly it’s a miracle that Rio Ferdinand hasn’t been a Cherwell rock star before.