Rio Ferdinand
Rio Ferdinand called time on his playing career last seasonGetty Images

Former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand worries the Premier League's best players could be lured away by the money on offer in the Chinese Super League. The 37-year-old pundit insisted he would never have been tempted to play in one of world football's lesser leagues, but he can understand the attraction of playing in the cash-rich competition.

In recent months, Chelsea's Brazilian midfielder Ramires and Atletico Madrid star Jackson Martinez have both moved to the Chinese Super League, where they are rumoured to be paid eye-watering salaries. Ferdinand admitted it is now impossible to ignore China as one of the coming forces in the sport.

"We used to go there with Manchester United - I think we went there five or six times when I was playing," he recalled at the Millennial 2020 event in London. "We understood that it is definitely a 'coming' market. I've been on personal tours to China and to different parts of Asia.

"I think it's definitely an area of huge interest. There is a lot of money being invested now in football in China. I saw the president made a big pledge for the next five years and so we have big players heading there."

The ex-United star insisted he would never have been lured by the money on offer in the Chinese Super League. However, he admitted some players are bound to have their heads "turned" by the jaw-dropping salaries.

"For me, personally as a player, if someone came from a country that I didn't see games in terms of silverware, games that meant something like Spain, Germany, Italy or England, I wouldn't have been interested," stressed Ferdinand, who left United in 2014 and retired last year. "No matter what they paid, I wouldn't have gone unless I was over the hill and surplus to requirements here. But everyone is different.

"I think in China it's very interesting. With that type of money, there are going to be players whose heads are turned. To see a country so new in this sport to be able to come and cherry-pick some big players, it makes you think, 'Whoa, where can they be in the next two or three years?'

"If they keep getting those types of players taken from our big teams, how are our teams doing? If the shift went like that, I'd be gutted. The European football model, I love it. But you've got to respect that China have got a desire to [buy the best players] and it's interesting to see where it's going to go."