Rio Ferdinand has been criticised for comments he made in which he defended Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley.
Speaking ahead of the Magpies’ clash with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on BT Sport, the former Manchester United and England defender said he understood Ashley’s dealings in the transfer windows as he attempts to sell the club.
The billionaire retail entrepreneur sells Ferdinand’s own clothing brand FIVE exclusively at his retail branch Sports Direct, but the 40-year-old says opinions have nothing to do with business.
“I don’t even really know him well,” Ferdinand said. “I will get to know him.
“My issue has got nothing to do with my business dealings I’ve got with his company. When he went down he spent £50million of his own money to get them back up.
“I understand Rafa’s frustrations because as a manager you want the ability to go out and spend money, but they’re not in that position.
“At the same time I understand Mike Ashley.
“Why is he going to spend more and more money – millions and millions of pounds – when he’s actually looking to sell the club? He’s got them to a point now where they’re back in the Premier League and they’re consolidating to a certain extent.
“He’s not going to go spend his own money. You wouldn’t go spend your own money now knowing you were trying to sell something unless you knew you were going to get that back.”
Ferdinand then added that Newcastle supporters should start to have more realistic expectations about their club.
“It’s not easy to sell a football club,” he continued.
“He’s got a price and he’s going to wait to get it. He’s spent money at that football club, he’s just not going to spend it at this time.
“All these fans, they do dream, and they dream big and I understand that.
“What are Newcastle’s aims? They can’t be aiming at being a Manchester United or a Manchester City. They’ve got to aim to be a Bournemouth.
“They’ve only just started spending. I’m not saying everything they’re doing is correct.
“What I’m saying is, I think Mike Ashley, you can’t hammer him and say that he should be spending when he wants to sell the club. You wouldn’t spend on your house when you want to sell it.”
His comments prompted an angry reaction on social media, from pundits, former players and Newcastle fans.