Football

RIo Ferdinand struggled against Kevin Davies..

Rio Ferdinand explains why Kevin Davies was his toughest opponent

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Rio Ferdinand spent 12 years of his football career playing for Manchester United so, naturally, retired with a plethora of winner's medals.

On his way to winning six Premier League titles and one Champions League, Ferdinand had to face up to some of the biggest and the best attacking players in the game. 

Lionel Messi of Barcelona obviously taught him a lesson in the 2009 Champions League final while he also struggled to contain the likes of Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres on the domestic stage. However, Ferdinand's toughest ever opponent was never considered to be a top striker and only ever made one appearance for England.

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Toughest opponent

The former England centre-back offered a detailed explanation as to why he picked former Bolton and West Ham striker Kevin Davies as the toughest man he ever faced.

Ferdinand told the Daily Mail: "In the Premier League, I'd say people like Kevin Davies. I was tall and lean, but physically, if it came down to a wrestling match and one of those guys pinned me, they had the advantage. So I had to work out ways around it, how to get to the ball first. If you're playing against someone quicker or more skilful, you're just thinking about where to be on the pitch."

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The striker, who used to get into the referee's book more often than the scoresheet, was a renowned bruiser in his prime and was cherished by long-ball specialist Sam Allardyce. Indeed, he finished his Premier League career with 88 goals in 444 appearances and an impressive 98 yellow cards. Only Lee Bowyer (99) and Gareth Barry (110) have more.

Preston North End v Manchester United - FA Cup Fifth Round

Toughest team

In the same interview, Ferdinand was also asked to name the toughest team he ever faced, to which he gave a much more conventional response.

He said: "In the Champions League, it was Barcelona. They beat us twice in the final. They embarrassed us. If we played like how we did to get to the final, we would have had a better chance. We wouldn't have been embarrassed.

"But we played a different way tactically and it still kills me now thinking about it! Valencia - when they had Mendieta and all those guys - beat Leeds 3-0 in the semi-final at the Mestalla. They destroyed us. That was the best team I had faced before Barca. In the Premier League, it was Mourinho's first Chelsea team. They were hard to play against."

Manchester United's English defender Rio

Tough calls

Ferdinand is now a successful pundit for BT Sport and has drawn plaudits for his analysis of the game. He has also not shied away from criticising his former team when necessary. Not to the extent of Paul Scholes, as Louis van Gaal would tell you, but still enough to be deemed neutral. He admits that his job in the media would be easier if United were doing well.

He said: "It would be easier if Manchester United were doing well! It's softened the blow of retiring. We've created a team environment in the studio. I've enjoyed it. This is what I'd be doing with my mates anyway, sitting there talking about football. Why not do it for BT?"

A.F.C. Bournemouth v Newcastle United - Premier League

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Topics:
Manchester United
Premier League
Football
Rio Ferdinand
Kevin Davies

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