Rio Ferdinand is planning to propose to his girlfriend Katie Wright.

The 39-year-old retired soccer star is keen to take his relationship with the former 'The Only Way is Essex' beauty - whom he started dating in 2016 - to the next level in the near future by getting down on one knee and popping the big question.

Speaking to the Daily Star newspaper, Ferdinand said: ''We do talk about it [getting engaged and getting married]. But I'm not going to sit here and give you a date.''

The sports pundit fell more in love with Katie when he saw how good she was with his children Lorenz, 11, Tate, nine, and Tia, seven - whom he has with his late wife Rebecca Ellison - and he likes that she has a ''softer touch'' with them.

He said recently: ''My relationship with Kate has helped in that they have got a female in the house now. They run past me sometimes to go to her. I've had to go through a period of being very, very open, and men aren't normally like that naturally.

''So having that extra person in the house who is female, who has that softer touch, I think is vitally important for the kids.''

And it seems like the children have adapted well to having Katie around as they now refer to her as their ''step mum'' and ask her when she's going to give them a sibling.

She explained: ''It's really funny because at the beginning i could never imagine the kids would talk about it. It started with Tate when I went to the school saying: 'Oh that's my aunt who is picking me up' then 'that's my dad's girlfriend' and now he says 'it's my stepmum. And now, I would say on a daily basis they go: 'Oh when're you giving us a brother or sister? They ask if we're having a baby yet and I say no!''

Ferdinand was left heartbroken in 2010 when his wife Rebecca tragically passed away from breast cancer and he single-handily raised his kids alone until he met Katie.