Football: England's Ferdinand retires from international duty

England defender Rio Ferdinand (above) has retired from international football to focus on his Manchester United career. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP
England defender Rio Ferdinand (above) has retired from international football to focus on his Manchester United career. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (AP) - England defender Rio Ferdinand has retired from international football to focus on his Manchester United career.

He was recalled to the England squad in March by Roy Hodgson after almost two years out of the national set-up.

But Ferdinand provoked the fury of fans by withdrawing, citing fitness concerns, only to fly to the Middle East to commentate on the World Cup qualifiers.

He was annoyed last year with Hodgson after believing he had been overlooked for a place in the squad for the European Championship, amid the fallout from a case in which his brother was racially abused by England defender John Terry.

Now, after making 81 appearances, Ferdinand's England career appears to be ending more amicably.

"At the age of 34, 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," he said on Wednesday. "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."

Hodgson had said on Monday that he would be focusing on using younger talent rather than persisting with older players.

On Wednesday, he paid tribute to Ferdinand, whose last England game in June 2011 came under Fabio Capello.

"To have captained his country, to play at three World Cups and indeed score in one of those, marks him out among a very special group of players," Hodgson said. "I appreciated the call from Rio to inform me of his decision, which clearly he had spent much time considering before reaching this point.

"I wish him all the best in his club career, and I'm sure the former managers he played under and every England fan will join me in thanking him for his service."