A master in the making

How can a defender, particularly one like Rio Ferdinand, who is yet to secure a regular international place, be worth £18m?

One might as well ask how a Picasso or a Van Gogh can be sold for that sort of money. Originality is priceless in any form of art and, as a young master of football’s defensive artistry, it should not be surprising that Ferdinand has expanded the limits of the marketplace.

His ability on the ball, almost unique for an Englishman, so dominates the eye that the West Ham manager Authentic Prada Bags Outlet Online Harry Redknapp, who nurtured him to the peak of his talent and selling power, feels it necessary to point out Ferdinand’s ability to do the basics of his job.

Redknapp says: “People forget that he is a good defender as well. One on one, I’ve never seen anyone as good as him. He’s almost impossible to beat. People dig him up when he makes a mistake but he makes mistakes because of over-confidence on the ball. If you want someone who runs from the back, it’s a high-risk game.”

Paying £18m may seem an even higher risk strategy by Leeds United when football’s transfer system could reduce Ferdinand’s value to nothing in a month’s time and in an industry when one mistimed tackle can end the brightest career. But should the Leicester manager Peter Taylor ever get someone as rich as Richard Desmond, the media magnate who this week bought Express newspapers, as a chairman, he would have no hesitation going that far down the financial road for Rio.

Taylor swiftly elevated Ferdinand to the England Under-21 team after first seeing him in the Under-18s three years ago. And, when he took over as England’s caretaker manager for the game in Italy last week and began scribbling formations on scraps of paper, the first name he inked in was that of Ferdinand.

Taylor says: “I always had it in my mind to play him in the centre of a back three. But because of his versatility, his Amancio Prada Prada ability to run the ball out of defence or pass it out, I would have had no hesitation playing him in a four either. He is also happy to play the ball in tight areas, which inevitably leads to mistakes, but you can’t have it both ways. The odd error goes with the sort of player he is.”

Taylor believes that Ferdinand might already have been a fixture in the England team if Glenn Hoddle was still the manager. And many of the most experienced observers believe he will be from now on.

Marcello Lippi, one of Italy’s most respected coaches, described Ferdinand’s performance last week as “buonissimo”, adding: “I was surprised by the way England played. Ferdinand looks as though he could be the best of a fine young crop of English footballers.”

Ferdinand always seemed destined to move to Italy, where Juventus and Roma have both been intrigued by his skills which mirror those of their own defenders, rather than the block-and-tackle brigade in England. The team from the capital in fact have a dossier on him that is so detailed it would not have failed to impress J Edgar Hoover. It includes question marks about his “professionalism”, a euphemistic way of suggesting he should control the drunken antics which have seen him featured on the front page of the News Of The World, although this is more than balanced by his praiseworthy characteristics.

Franco Baldini, Roma’s transfer market advisor, says: “We have been keeping tabs on Rio for three years. I see him as a player with tremendous physical gifts and, though he is not muscularly developed, he has the wiry strength Authentic Prada Handbags Outlet Uk that allows him to be powerful, while retaining quickness and flexibility.

“His timing is good but inconsistent, which is an area he can improve upon. But technically he is very good and, unusually for a British defender, he is comfortable on the ball and thinks positively, always trying to find an open team-mate.”

Because he chose Authentic Prada Outlet Online Uk to join Authentic Prada Outlet Uk West Ham as a 15-year-old, it was inevitable that, as a ball-playing defender, Ferdinand would be compared with Bobby Moore, though he finds the compliment embarrassing, saying: “I never even met Bobby but he was a legend, a one-off.”

Redknapp, who played alongside Moore, believes a more fitting comparison would be between Ferdinand and Franz Beckenbauer. “When you look at the Germans, Baby Prada Shoes Uk they have always had a player who attacks from the back – Beckenbauer, Sammer and Matthäus,” he says. “Rio is what English football has been crying out for and he ought to be an England regular.

“Of course he is going to take chances on the field and once in every 10 games he will drop Black Leather Prada Milano Purse a clanger. But give me that any time rather than whacking the ball 40 yards upfield like a lot of central defenders have been doing for years.”

Even in his salad days as a defender for Blackheath Bluecoat school Ferdinand stood out as a player who was exceptionally composed on the ball. His former PE Authentic Prada Handbags Uk master Andy Whomsley says: “We were lucky to have a lot of players almost as good as him. But he was always the one who was going to make it because he was so committed and so competitive.”

West Ham’s Paolo di Canio would agree. Despite the abridged comments from his autobiography which appeared to suggest that Ferdinand was not yet ready for international football, he remains a committed fan. “He is one of the most intelligent footballers I have met,” says Di Canio. “I would say that he is currently at a level just below Paolo Maldini but he has the ability to be better than Alessandro Nesta, whom I rate the best defender in the world.”

Selling such a player was as unthinkable to West Ham’s fans as selling Moore would have been. But by continually denying that he Agatha Ruiz Dela Prada E Shop would sell Redknapp forced the price up to a level which has deflected any possible criticism from Hammers supporters. It is impossible to voice criticism with a hanging jaw, which was the reaction not just of West Ham’s fans but everyone else when the fee was confirmed.

Redknapp knew it was an offer he simply could not refuse. He says: “I wish I had another three Rios to put in my back three and the chairman would be delighted. He would be able to build a new stand.”

The Leeds captain Lucas Radebe has won the Fifa Fair Play Award for 2000 for his work with children in his home country and also for his commitment to the fight against racism in football. He will be presented with the award at a Fifa gala in Best Prada Outlet Italy Rome on December 11. Meanwhile, Portugal’s Luis Figo, the Brazilian Rivaldo and France’s Zinedine Zidane have been confirmed as the three nominees for the World Player of online the Year award.