RIO FERDINAND once branded Paolo Di Canio ‘an absolute idiot’ for making a fascist salute.

Ferdinand, a team-mate of the Italian at West Ham, made the comment in his autobiography ‘Rio: My Story’.

He said: “There were pictures taken of Paolo making what looked like fascist salutes which makes him an absolute idiot in my book.”

Di Canio, 44, has proved a controversial appointment as the new Sunderland boss.

Labour MP David Miliband resigned as vice-chairman while the Durham Miners’ Association have demanded the return of a banner which hangs at the ground.

Ferdinand revealed Di Canio could be difficult but was also hugely passionate about his football.

The Manchester United ace said: “He once told the Press I wasn’t good enough to play for England. I pulled him about it and he said he had been misinterpreted.

“But I don’t know, you were never quite sure with Paolo.

“For two weeks he would be one of the lads, then he would erupt and walk out of training because something wasn’t going his way. He showed his passion more than any player I’ve known.

“Paolo got kicked in a practice game once and walked off. The manager Harry Redknapp pleaded with Paolo to come back but he wasn’t having any of it. Paolo was a law unto himself.

“He’s not the easiest person to work out but he was a top pro and a superb player.”

Ferdinand and Di Canio clashed six months ago when Rio criticised the then- Swindon boss’ decision to take keeper Wes Foderingham off after only 21 minutes.

Di Canio responded: “I read a tweet from Rio Ferdinand.

“He is my friend, but Rio was saying ‘Oh no, Di Canio was too tough. I hope this goalkeeper doesn’t have a big problem mentally now’.

“I want to say to you, my friend Rio, I know in the last two years I’ve seen you more on Twitter than on the pitch.”