Rio Ferdinand: Manchester United defender retires from England

Rio Ferdinand

England defender Rio Ferdinand has announced his retirement from international football.

The Manchester United player, 34, who won 81 caps, said he wants to concentrate on his club career.

"After a great deal of thought, I have decided the time is right to retire from international football," he said.

England manager Roy Hodgson said: "To have captained his country, and to play at three World Cups, marks him out among a very special group of players."

Ferdinand has not played for England since a Euro 2012 qualifier against Switzerland in June 2011.

He was recalled by Hodgson for the World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Montenegro in March, but later withdrew because of a "pre-planned fitness programme".

Ferdinand helped Manchester United regain the Premier League title and was voted in to the Professional Footballers' Association's team of the year by his peers.

"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," added the former West Ham and Leeds centre-back.

"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.

"I regard it as a great honour and a privilege to have represented my country at every level from Under-17s upwards.

"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."

On Thursday, Hodgson will name his England squad for the end-of-season friendlies against Republic of Ireland at Wembley on 29 May and Brazil in Rio de Janiero four days later.

In October, Hodgson denied telling London Underground passengers that Ferdinand's international career was over following his omission from England's Euro 2012 squad.

Hodgson, who insisted the move was a "footballing decision", did apologise after admitting he had discussed Ferdinand with members of the public as he travelled on the Tube.

Ferdinand's absence from Euro 2012 avoided a potential conflict with John Terry. The Chelsea defender was named in Hodgson's squad for last year's tournament in Poland and Ukraine as he awaited trial over allegations he racially abused Ferdinand's brother, Anton.

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Rio Ferdinand scores for England at 2002 World Cup

Terry was cleared of the charge at Westminster Magistrates' Court in July, but was later found guilty by the Football Association.

Hodgson said he had been informed of Ferdinand's decision in a telephone call from the player.

"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," added Hodgson.

"I appreciated the call from Rio to inform me of his decision, which clearly he had spent much time considering before reaching this point."

Ferdinand became the youngest defender to play for England when he made his international debut as a 19-year-old against Cameroon at Wembley in November 1997.

He played in three World Cups - 1998, 2002 and 2006 - but was ruled out of the 2010 tournament in South Africa because of a knee injury.

Ferdinand also missed Euro 2004 after being banned for eight months by the Football Association for failing to attend a drugs test in September 2003.