Rio to Rio? Not likely

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Rio to Rio? Not likely
Rio to Rio? Not likely Photo: Martin Rickett/PA

'Rio to Rio' has that irresistible ring to it but it is a headline you very probably will not read now, even if Roy Hodgson is required to choose a squad for Brazil next year.

England’s manager has conspired to turn Rio Ferdinand’s selection from saga to shambles and Rio himself has all but announced his international retirement, whether intentionally or not.

Hodgson is an intelligent, likeable man and a very experienced coach of course and because of that one would have thought, especially given the sensitivities of Ferdinand’s status as a reluctant international outcast, that a simple, old fashioned phone call might have been a good idea.

Time to pick up the phone?
Time to pick up the phone? Credit: Nick Potts/PA

Or maybe even three. The first to Alex Ferguson, the second to Manchester United’s medical staff and lastly to Ferdinand himself – just to see if he was interested in wearing the white of England again, whatever his recent public protestations.

Remember this is a player who, in Hodgson's judgement, was not good enough ‘for football reasons’ to make the Euro 2012 squad. He is also a player who suspects his exclusion was down to the FA siding with John Terry, even though he was facing allegations of racism against Rio’s brother Anton.

Remember too, Hodgson appeared to kill off Ferdinand’s England chances when shooting the breeze with England fans on the tube - a conversation that was gleefully and embarrassingly passed on to a tabloid newspaper.

But despite this turbulent history, there were no phone calls. Surely protocol could have been set aside and saved the mess we are wading though now when, in the build up to two important internationals, the main talking point at every press conference is likely to be a player who is not even in the squad? Not only would an early communique have prevented the despair of disbelieving England fans but would also have alerted Hodgson to Ferdinand’s complex fitness programme.

Manchester United's manager Sir Alex Ferguson (right) sits alongside Rio Ferdinand
Manchester United's manager Sir Alex Ferguson (right) sits alongside Rio Ferdinand Credit: Dave Thompson/PA Wire

Whether Ferdinand was motivated by revenge - and who can blame him - or loyalty to United or even a bit of both, his decision to walk away has left England looking a little threadbare at the back. With injury now ruling out Gary Cahill too, Hodgson will have to start with his sixth and seventh choice central defenders.

You can not avoid the conclusion that if all of this had been handled a little more professionally, England’s in-form centre back may well have been playing for the three lions this week after all – intricate fitness regime or not.

Instead, everyone outside looking in is probably chuckling away at another England farce. And nowhere will you find a broader grin than on the face of a certain Knight of the Realm who spends much of his time at Old Trafford.