Former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand is worried today's young players put too much emphasis on their online personae rather than their on-field performances. The social media-conscious pundit said that too many aspiring stars allow themselves to be distracted by the trappings of fame and success before they have truly established themselves at the top.
Ferdinand, 37, has more than six million followers on Twitter and has been an avid social media user for years, helping to grow his other business interests through the platform. However, Ferdinand insisted he only turned to social media once he had already earned his reputation as one of the world's best players.
"My problem with the younger kids now is that you see a lot of athletes who want to start a clothing range or be really active on social media – but they've not really got their core business, which is sport, in order," the ex-United star explained at the Millennial 2020 event in London.
"What they need to do from Monday to Friday is to get ready for the game on Saturday training-wise, how they recuperate, how they rest, their mental state for the game, the concentration levels for the game... to be successful in the level they're at."
Ferdinand said that if he were a manager, he would ration the amount his squad use social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram. The former England captain insisted players' immediate priority must be producing consistently excellent performances on the pitch.
"Me, if I was a manager or a player, I would shut that down straight away," admitted Ferdinand, who left United in 2014 and retired last year. "I would say you can be on Twitter and social media a little bit. But you monitor it. Until they really understand how you get the best out of yourself as an individual in a team environment, that's when I would open it up for them."
During his trophy-laden career at the top, Ferdinand felt confident enough in his own on-field performances to rebuff any criticism from coaches and pundits about his off-field activities, revealing he would have defended himself against the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson.
"Sir Alex would have been like, 'What are doing with all this fashion malarkey? What are you doing with this magazine and this restaurant?'" he said of United's legendary manager. "But I felt comfortable to say to him, 'Hold on, we're winning boss and I'm playing well.'"