Rio Ferdinand has announced that he is retiring from football. The former England captain, who lost his wife Rebecca to cancer on 1 May, told BT Sport that he felt the time had come to "hang up the boots".
Former West Ham, Leeds and Manchester United central defender Rio spoke of his journey from an eager youngster to proud England player.
Rio thanked his late wife for her support throughout his career
"After 18 years as a professional footballer I now feel it’s the right time for me to retire from the game that I love," he said. "As a 12-year-old boy, kicking around a football on the Friary Estate in Peckham, I never dreamt that I would play for my boyhood club West Ham, captain Leeds United, win the Champions League with Manchester United, or re-join my first manager Harry Redknapp at Queens Park Rangers.
"I will always regard the 81 times that I played for England, with immense pride," he added. "These are all treasured memories that will last a lifetime."
Rio (second left) with David Seaman, Sol Campbell, Alan Shearer, David Beckham and Prince Andrew (L-R)
The 36-year-old went on to thank his late wife for her support during his time on the pitch.
"I'd also like to thank and pay tribute to my late wife Rebecca and my family, including my mother and father, for their sacrifices, their encouragement and their advice throughout my career," he said. "And finally, I’d like to thank all the fans from all the clubs, for without them professional football would not exist. I will miss each and every one of you on my Saturday afternoons."
Rio playing for England with Michael Owen and Trevor Sinclair in June 2002
Rio's wife Rebecca, with whom he had sons Lorenz, Tate and daughter Tia, was laid to rest during a private funeral in Kent on 13 May.
Sir Alex Ferguson, Rio's former Manchester United boss, as well as players including Robin Van Persie and Darren Fletcher were among those who showed their support for the London-born sportsman at the service, according to the Sun.