John Barnes: Rio Ferdinand is "England's best defender"

Barnes: Rio is
© PA Photos
Former England winger John Barnes tells Sports Mole that he believes Rio Ferdinand is the best defender that the Three Lions have.

John Barnes has told Sports Mole that he considers Rio Ferdinand the best English defender currently available to manager Roy Hodgson.

Manchester United centre-back Ferdinand has featured sparingly for his nation over the past two years because of a combination of injuries and Hodgson's repeat decision to select John Terry ahead of him.

However, Chelsea skipper Terry has now retired from international football in the wake of an FA misconduct charge that he was handed for racially abusing Ferdinand's brother Anton, who plays for Queens Park Rangers.

Terry's retirement has since led to speculation that 33-year-old Ferdinand could be in line for a recall to the fold.

Despite insisting that Ferdinand should be included in terms of ability, former England international and ESPN analyst Barnes has called for caution regarding the non-footballing reasons that are present.

"From a playing perspective Rio should always be in the side because I think he is probably still England's best defender," he said. "Obviously though there are many more intangibles to take into consideration. The harmony, the trust, the belief and the relationship between himself and the manager because he didn't pick him before.

"Also, how would he feel about coming back into a situation faced with other people in the squad if there is split?

"In terms of his ability it is a yes because he is a great player but only Roy Hodgson can make the decision, not Rio Ferdinand! I'm sure Rio wants to be involved."

Hodgson will name a 23-man squad for this month's World Cup qualifiers tomorrow afternoon.

John Barnes was speaking ahead of ESPN's live and exclusive coverage of West Ham vs. Arsenal at 4.30pm on Saturday, October 6. Visit for details.

Gary Neville
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