Should Rio Ferdinandand Manchester United decide to part ways at the end of the season with a year still to run on his contract, the defender will not be short of options.
There has been talk of mega-rich moves to the United States or the Middle East but one intriguing possibility is a romantic return to West Ham.
Ferdinand still retains a great affection for the club that he joined as a 14-year-old and spent eight years at before his £18 million move to Leeds United in 2000.
He rents a private box at Upton Park and is a regular visitor to his former club when he is in London. The centre-half also has a good relationship with West Ham co-owners David Sullivan and David Gold and has spoken to friends about the possibility of one day returning to the club that nurtured him.
A move to West Ham next summer would be dependent not only on Ferdinand falling further down the pecking order at Old Trafford but also the East Londoners returning to the Premier League at the first attempt.
Sam Allardyce’s team are second in the Championship and are strong favourites for a swift return to the top tier. West Ham are the biggest payers in the division but do not have a money-is-no-object budget. They expressed an interest in signing Carlos Tevez on loan last month but were only willing to pay £50,000-a-week towards the Argentine’s wages.
A Premier League return would put them in a better position to meet Ferdinand’s wage demands should Sir Alex Ferguson indicate his first-team chances will be limited next season.
Sources close to Ferdinand say he would take that as a cue to consider his future away from Old Trafford, even though his deal runs until 2013.
Ferguson recently admitted that Ferdinand is no longer a first-choice in his central defence, while England manager Fabio Capello has omitted the 33-year-old from his last three squads.
Although Ferdinand has started United’s last four matches, his longest consecutive run in 2011, the emergence of Chris Smalling, Jonny Evans and Phil Jones has put his United future under greater scrutiny than at any other point during his nine years at the club.