Although he left West Ham United for Leeds United in 2000, Rio Ferdinand will be remembered as one of the greatest centre-backs to represent the club and it’s clear he still has time to talk about the place where he got his big break.

Although the Hammers started the season in the worst possible fashion on the pitch, many have lauded the club’s summer business off the pitch, primarily focusing on the incoming talent.

Eintracht Frankfurt striker Sebastien Haller and Villareal midfielder Pablo Fornals were the headline buys, however, Ferdinand is impressed with how West Ham have managed to keep their best stars, with two, in particular, coming to mind.

Speaking to talkSPORT, as cited by Forever West Ham, the Manchester United great explained:

The fans have been up in arms over the last couple of years with the owners but they have put their money where their mouth is. And the biggest thing they have achieved this year is keeping hold of Declan Rice and Issa Diop. Me, Frank [Lampard], Jermain Defoe, Glen Johnson … once there was a little bit of form or interest players just left this club before. Hopefully, this is the sign of the strength at the club now.

Both Diop and Rice were targeted by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Man United during the transfer window, but the Hammers weren’t going to be bullied by the Red Devils and stood their ground.

Read West Ham’s verdict

Neither player pushed for a move, which can only mean good things for the future. Both are pivotal in Manuel Pellegrini’s plans this season and seem happy to supply their trade at the London Stadium.

Diop is arguably the club’s best defender at the young age of 22, whilst Rice is quickly becoming West Ham’s most prized asset, aged just 19 and already a part of Gareth Southgate’s England set-up.

Ferdinand is absolutely right when he says it’s been the club’s biggest achievement keeping hold of them both, because Pellegrini’s side looks a hell of a lot weaker without them.

As far as the season goes, it can only go up from here!

Who is more important for West Ham this season?

Issa Diop

Declan Rice