Ferdinand backed to be new face of MLS
Published 22:30 12/10/11 By Darren Lewis
Rio Ferdinand is being urged to take up a lucrative invitation to play Major League Soccer – by an ex-Everton trainee.
Andy Iro was released from Goodison as a youngster and now plays in MLS with Toronto FC, turning out against the likes of Thierry Henry and David Beckham.
The 26-year-old believes Ferdinand would be the ideal ambassador for Major League Soccer, once Beckham’s contract with LA Galaxy expires at the end of the current season.
It was reported earlier this month that MLS side Chicago Fire want Ferdinand - who is 33 next month and out of contract at Manchester United at the end of next season - to become their own high-profile capture.
Iro told the Mirror: “Being a defender myself, I’m a huge admirer of Rio Ferdinand and it would be great to see him in MLS.
“He is still an established presence around Europe. He has shown that he is a winner and they are important qualities to bring to any top football team.
“In the past, MLS have maybe gone for a set type of market, whether that is tapping into the Hispanic market or whatever.
“Maybe they haven’t necessarily gone for the best player but maybe the kind of player to appeal to a certain demographic.
“When you look at Ferdinand, though, you see that he is a top, top player. When a guy like him is linked with MLS there is a buzz, because we all over here have grown up watching guys like him and Beckham in the English Premier League.
“There are other players who could take up the baton. Guys like Didier Drogba at Chelsea, where it doesn’t look as though he’ll get a new contract.
“My own club have just signed the German midfielder Torsten Frings - a great, established player.
“That represents what it's all about. If you reach a point in your career where you want a different type of experience but you still want to play at a very competitive level then MLS is going places,
“It will be interesting to see, as it gets close to the next World Cup and players want to continue playing regularly, how many more players we get from Europe.
“Every year in the off-season there is always a plethora of established players who are in that situation where they want to play regularly but can’t in their Premier League or European sides.
“The determination within MLS is to try and get to these guys - I know Vancouver pushed hard to bring Owen Hargreaves, for example.
“There was definitely huge interest after his time at Manchester United had come to an end and it would have been a massive coup for MLS to get him.
“But he decided he wanted to stay in the Premier League, and who could blame him?”
Beckham is being courted by Tottenham, Qatari-backed French club PSG and QPR, now owned by billionaire Tony Fernandes.
Iro added: “I’ve been a big admirer of Beckham as a player and a professional for a long time. I’ve played against him, so I can tell you first hand that nobody works harder on the field than he does.
“Beckham has also brought all the glamour to MLS - these days you see Hollywood stars in the stands - but more than that he has also attracted lots of fans who are maybe intrigued by football and want to see what the fuss is all about. When they see him play they fall in love with the sport.
“So I think he will be a big loss to the Galaxy and to the country if indeed he does leave when his contract expires.”
After leaving Everton and then his home in Toxteth as a teenager, 6ft 5in Iro has made it big in America.
A scholarship at the University of California Santa Barbara was followed by a spell with MLS side Columbus Crew and then a move to Toronto.
Iro’s impressive displays in MLS and the CONCACAF Champions League have sparked interest from the Nigerian national team, while English clubs are aware his MLS contract expires on December 31.
“My parents are from Nigeria so it would be a dream to play for them," he said. "And my ambition is also to play in England one day.
“But there have been positive talks about a new Toronto contract so we’ll see.
"My parents didn’t even want me to go out to America in the first place - they’d only ever heard the bad things about America; the shootings and the violence.
“I remember my mum in particular telling me that everyone in America has guns.
“It was actually my sister Jessie who persuaded me to go. When I mentioned it to her, she felt it was a great opportunity to go to university on a scholarship. The rest is history.
“I’ve been inspired by players who have had the same sort of journey as I have - guys like Dean Windass, Kevin Phillips and Peter Crouch.
"They’ve worked hard to come back from setbacks and made it to the top. They are the kinds of guys that you take your inspiration from.”