Rio Ferdinand admits the sacrifices he was forced to make during his Manchester United career meant he couldn't be there for his children "75 per cent of the time".
The United legend, 42, welcomed his fourth child, Cree, just before Christmas with wife Kate.
He has three other children – Lorenz, 14, Tate, 12, and Tia, nine – who he shared with late wife Rebecca before her passing in 2015.
But following the birth of his latest child, Ferdinand has opened up about the difficulties of balancing fatherhood with a jam-packed professional football schedule during his successful stint at Old Trafford.
"We think as dads, we are doing a great job and we are there all the time but we're not. We're just dipping in and out because we are travelling so much," he told The Mirror.
"I was probably not there 75 per cent of the time. I was on the road travelling around Europe and playing games.
"When I was there, was I really there mentally? I used that excuse, 'Oh I've got a game' – I probably left an hour early if I'm being honest."
He added: "For all elite sportsmen, their families play second fiddle to their careers.
"The family is the sacrifice. I didn't go to countless family functions. I missed birthdays, I missed so many things, I missed the births of one of my kids.
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"As a sportsman, you have to accept missing milestones whereas it's reversed a little bit now; my family is the centre point of everything.
"Any job I take, they are very much made aware of the family dynamics now because that's where my life is at right now.
"So this is like doing it for the first time properly, so it's really nice in that sense.”
Ferdinand, who married former TOWIE star Kate in 2019, has also admitted that the Covid-19 lockdown has forced him to become a more hands-on parent.
“It's really made me think back especially compounded with lockdown," he told The Midpoint podcast.
"There is no way out for Kate or for myself. There is no way out of this.
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"You've got to deal with every situation. You can't go, 'I'm gonna go out for a little while and go meet a couple of mates and take my head out of it'. There's none of that.
"It does remind me of when I had the three before, but it's very, very different.”
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