He has been most recently romantically linked to Towie star Kate Wright, but Rio Ferdinand says he is still mourning the loss of his wife, Rebecca Ellison, who lost her battle with cancer in 2015.

The father-of-three is the subject of a 60-minute BBC documentary which will air later this year as he tries to understand how widowed parents manage grief while bringing up their children.

Former Manchester United captain Ferdinand, 38, was rocked by the untimely death of 34-year-old Rebecca to breast cancer, and speaks candidly about his suffering in the forthcoming programme.

It is titled Rio Ferdinand: Being Mum And Dad, and opens the doors to the football legend's private life as he discusses dealing with the pressures of raising three children single-handedly and life without his beloved wife.

He says: "I don't think I've grieved properly. I've not given myself that time to sit down and really flush everything out and go through it.

"As footballers, we often talk about missing important games through injury as if it was the end of the world. Believe me, it isn't when compared to your wife and mother of your children dying of cancer at the age of 34."

At the time of Rebecca's death, Ferdinand was still playing professional football for Queens Park Rangers – but he retired after her death in the same month and did not play another match.

Rio Ferdinand Rebecca Ellisson cancer
Footballer Rio Ferdinand announced the death of his wife Rebecca Ellisson from cancer Twitter/Rio Ferdinand

The new film also offers a broader insight into how young husbands and fathers cope with grief, as approximately 75 men under 50 become widowers every day in the UK.

Alison Kirkham, controller of factual commissioning and events, said: "Rio Ferdinand has courageously allowed the cameras to follow him in this revealing and immensely personal documentary exploring the complexities of grief.

"This candid film will offer BBC One audiences an intimate exploration of the ways in which men similarly bereaved cope with their loss."

Previously discussing his wife's illness to The Sun, Ferdinand claimed that Rebecca was very private and eschewed the celebrity lifestyle.

He said: "Rebecca was an incredibly brave woman and a very private person who didn't want anything about her illness to appear in the media while she was fighting for her life. Only a close-knit group of family and friends knew."

Rio Ferdinand: Being Mum And Dad will be shown on BBC One this spring.