The wife of former England captain and Leeds United star Rio Ferdinand died last night following a battle with cancer.
Ferdinand told of his heartbreak after his “soul mate” and wife Rebecca died in hospital.
In a statement, he said: “My soul mate slipped away last night.
“Rebecca, my wonderful wife, passed away peacefully after a short battle with cancer at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London.
“She was a fantastic loving mother to our three beautiful children.
“She will be missed as a wife, sister, aunt, daughter and granddaughter. She will live on in our memory, as a guide and inspiration.”
Ferdinand, 36, who played for Leeds from 2000 to 2002, thanked his friends, family and hospital staff for their support over the past months.
He said: “Myself, my parents Janice and Julian, along with Rebecca’s parents Lesley and Stephen, would like to thank our families, friends and my club colleagues who have rallied around in these desperate days, weeks and months.
“I would also like to express my gratitude for the dedication and expertise of the staff led by professors Johnstone and Clarke at the Royal Marsden. Their valiant efforts to prolong Rebecca’s all-too-short life will not be forgotten.
“Our grief, as a family, is total. We would appreciate being allowed to mourn privately.”
The London club added: “The thoughts of everyone at Queens Park Rangers Football Club are with Rio and his family at this immensely difficult time.”
Leading figures from British sport expressed their shock and condolences at the news.
Footballer turned pundit Gary Lineker wrote on Twitter: “Thoughts are with Rio Ferdinand and his family. How dreadfully sad.”
Former England cricketer Michael Vaughan posted: “Incredibly sad news...Thinking of you @rioferdy5 and your young family.”
While TV presenter Eamonn Holmes wrote: “Such sad news to wake up to ..The Death of @rioferdy5 ‘s wife Rebecca after a short fight with Cancer. Condolences.”
Ferdinand’s former club Manchester United, where he made his name and played for more than a decade, said: “Everybody’s thoughts at Manchester United are with Rio Ferdinand today, whose wife sadly passed away last night.”
Former Manchester United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel wrote: “Really sad news that Rebecca Ellison, the wife of Rio Ferdinand has past away. My condolences to Rio, their their children and the family. RIP”
Arsenal football club posted: “Very sad news about Rio Ferdinand’s wife Rebecca, who has sadly lost her battle with cancer. Rest in peace.”
Sports presenter Jake Humpherey wrote: “The thoughts of all of us at BT Sport are with Rio Ferdinand and his children Tia, Tate and Lorenz after the heartbreaking death of his wife.”