Rio Ferdinand next in line to make great leap to China

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Rio Ferdinand is considering ending his 11-year tie with Manchester United this summer and becoming the latest Premier League player to head to China.

Following Nicolas Anelka’s move to Shanghai Shenua this January and a similar move for Didier Drogba expected later this year, it is believed Ferdinand has been contacted by another club from the Chinese Super League as it continues to strengthen its brand and reputation worldwide.

Former Fulham boss Jean Tigana is another big name who is now plying his trade in Shanghai, where Anelka has begun his career with one goal in his first three games.

Shanghai aren’t thought to be the team interested, instead current champions Guangzhou Evergrande and 2009 winners Beijing Guoan have been linked. Both clubs boast the biggest crowds in the league with average attendances of over 40,000.

Although Ferdinand has recently re-established his place in the Manchester United side and is expected to play an integral role in United’s race for their 20th league title, the emergence of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones, not to mention the maturing Jonny Evans’ impressive performances of late, suggest that Ferdinand’s first-team opportunities could be restricted next season.

It is this new competition, plus the lucrative offer likely to be made to him from China – Anelka is on a reported £175,000 a week – that could tempt the England defender to refuse a reduced role of the like Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes have been more than happy with in recent seasons.

As the rotational use of those two veterans has proved, Alex Ferguson is keen to hold on to and use aging members who he believes still have something to offer the United cause, and the wily Scot might yet tempt Ferdinand to stay.

Much will depend on Ferdinand’s remaining England ambitions, as surely a move to such an unknown and unproven league would likely signal the end of the 81-times capped defender’s international career.

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