Rio Ferdinand's Omission from England Squad Remains a Mystery

Ian RodgersWorld Football Staff WriterFebruary 5, 2013

Rio Ferdinand applauds the England fans after what may prove to be his last game for the national team against Switzerland in June 2011.
Rio Ferdinand applauds the England fans after what may prove to be his last game for the national team against Switzerland in June 2011.Clive Mason/Getty Images

Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand has told BBC Radio 5 live he would jump at the chance to play for England again, despite being omitted from the squad once more for the friendly against Brazil this week.

The 34-year-old has not played for his country since the European Championship qualifier against Switzerland in June 2011.

The racism charge against Ferdinand's England teammate John Terry has been the catalyst for the Old Trafford defender's non-inclusion for the national squad, but both Rio and his brother, Anton, have long since called a truce with the Chelsea captain, as the Daily Mail reported in October.

England manager Roy Hodgson apologised for discussing the defender's international future with passengers on a tube train in London as he travelled to Arsenal's Champions League game against Olympiacos in the same month, BBC Sport reported.

But the former Liverpool and Blackburn boss has kept Ferdinand sidelined from his plans for the prestigious friendly against the Brazilians, which is part of the Football Association's 150th anniversary celebrations.

Can the exclusion of Ferdinand be justified, though?

Time and tide wait for no man and Ferdinand is no exception. United have been a porous entity this season with the goals of Robin van Persie particularly digging them out of a hole after going behind in several matches.

Ferdinand's positioning has been suspect this term and the pace to his game has, naturally, dissipated over time.

However, it is fair to say that England do not possess a wealth of central-defensive talent. Gary Cahill of Chelsea is an effective player at the back and also has a threat up front for club and country, but there remains a question mark over other squad regulars.

Manchester City's Joleon Lescott is no longer an automatic first-choice selection for his club and has only started the last three matches due to injury to Vincent Kompany.

Everton defender Phil Jagielka, 30, is yet to truly seal his place at international level despite his form for the Goodison Park club, while Chris Smalling of Manchester United and Tottenham's Steven Caulker are still learning their trade.

Terry's decision to retire from international football ahead of the FA disciplinary hearing into racism claims in September left a huge hole in Hodgson's back four.

Hodgson opted to take Terry to Euro 2012 ahead of Ferdinand for footballing reasons he told reporters, but turned to Liverpool defender Martin Kelly when Cahill fractured his jaw in a warm-up match against Belgium.

But despite Terry having a court case hanging over him on his return from Poland and Ukraine, he was an immense figure for England during the finals and one of only a handful to emerge with credit after their quarterfinal exit to Italy.

Hodgson, of course, has to look to the future but the lack of international experience at the back must be a concern to him. With Terry gone, Ferdinand is the logical solution to fill the gap but remains an outcast when England are crying out for him.

Ferdinand has played 22 games for United this season and has remained fit, which will have pleased Sir Alex Ferguson in the pursuit of the Premier League and Champions League crowns this season.

But the defender is still flummoxed by his lack of England caps. But he isn't alone.