Rio Ferdinand told this month’s Inside United magazine that he will assess his contract situation at Christmas, by which time January will almost be upon us and the potential for the defender to listen to offers from other clubs. Could this be Ferdinand’s final season at Manchester United, and is there the possibility of him leaving Old Trafford to play in Major League Soccer?
The veteran centre-back’s current deal expires next summer, and he can expect to be offered a 12 month extension in keeping with the club’s policy of annually renewing players’ contracts who are in their thirties. Last season Ferdinand was linked with a move to the United States, with Chicago Fire rumoured to be keen on him, and any move to the MLS would surely see a contract with a greater deal of security than on offer in Manchester.
There would also be a reported decrease in salary should Ferdinand remain with United as his career nears its end, in the same way that players such as Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes have taken pay-cuts to see out their careers at Old Trafford. In addition, there will likely be a reduction in Ferdinand’s playing time, as Sir Alex Ferguson manages his involvement in the side to maximise his squad and the capabilities of a player who turned 34 last week.
Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Nemanja Vidic – when back from injury – will all be competing with Ferdinand for a place in the team at United. The New York Red Bulls are thought to be keeping tabs on Ferdinand’s situation, and would be promising a starting berth in the side, whilst most MLS suitors would surely offer a tempting pay packet to better a potential halving of the defender’s United salary.
There is further temptation to be seen in a move to the MLS, as Ferdinand could be keen to grow his #5 brand Stateside, opening up opportunities beyond his playing career. He has said this week that money is not his biggest motivation, and that he judges himself by success on the pitch. It is unlikely however that he has not thought at all about making a living after hanging up his boots.
He will also be aware of the success that two former teammates of his, David Beckham and Robbie Keane, have had since moving to the States, where football will be boosted in 2013 by the return of the New York Cosmos. It is expected for the Cosmos to gain instant promotion from the second-tier of American soccer to the MLS, which is continuing to grow with respect to popularity and attendances.
It is perhaps unlikely that Ferdinand will depart these shores just yet, with Ferguson saying last month that he can see the experienced defender continuing for two or three years. When time is called on his Old Trafford career, it would not be a surprise to see Ferdinand cross the Atlantic to join the MLS.
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