Wayne Rooney. Whether it be for good reasons or bad, all football fans know the name. If I was writing this article 3 weeks ago, it may have been optimistic; with his retirement from international duty, he appeared to have turned things around at club level and was finally having a resurgence at his boyhood club. Now however, with drink driving charges levelled against him, we are once again reminded of his other side; the side that has been ever present throughout his career. Can he still be the legend his talent deserved?
Rooney’s career started at Everton in 2002. His first start came against Spurs in a 2-2 draw, where he bagged his first senior assist, but it wasn’t until the 19th of October that he truly announced himself as one to watch, when he smashed in a last-minute winner from outside the box against an Arsenal side that was on a 30 match unbeaten run. This goal, that came 5 days before his 17th birthday, made him the youngest premier league goal scorer at the time and things took off from there. later that year he won the BBC’s “Young Sports Personality of the Year”, and after one more season at Everton, he attracted the attention of the great Sir Alex Ferguson. He secured his transfer to United aged 18 making him the most expensive player under 20 at the time, moving for a fee of £25.6 million (which seems crazy when you consider the fact that Mbappe and Dembelé both went for over £100 million each). He promptly scored a hat trick in the Champion’s league making him the youngest player to do so, and finished that season as United’s top scorer with 11 goals and won PFA’s “young Player of the Season”. This was also the year that saw Rooney score 4 times in Euro 2004, becoming the youngest player to do so (a record that was unfortunately broken just 4 days later). He was subsequently injured in the quarter finals, but was still named in the UEFA “Team of the Tournament”. Rooney was here, and he was the next big thing in English football.
Whilst no one can deny that Rooney has an excellent goal scoring record in the league (200 goals in 466 league games overall) he lacks the most important thing for a striker: the golden boot. Whilst he’s come close twice in 2009/10 with 26 goals and 2011/12 with 27 goals, he has never quite managed the accolade. Henry, Shearer, Drogba, Van Persie, Aguero, Van Nistelrooy, Suarez, Ronaldo, and most recently Harry Kane have all achieved it, but Rooney never could. Now you could put this down to him being played in many different positions in his career that weren’t out and out striker, but it’s difficult to call him a greta if he couldn’t ever be the best striker in the Premier League on numbers alone. 183 goals in 393 league games for United makes him a United Legend, as Mourinho said in a recent press conference, and their top scorer, but it doesn’t make him one of the best strikers in Premier League history.
Rooney’s national record is stellar. The leading goal scored with 53 goals in 119 games is nothing short of incredible. He captained the country well, despite that disappointing exit from the Euros that is better left untouched, and with 71 wins under his belt he can only be described as an English legend. However, he only has one goal at the World Cup finals, and with no major international trophy, he is a prime example of that era of premier league player that won it all at the club level, but could never replicate that success on the biggest stage of all. His retirement, a shock to many, in my opinion was the right move. With Kane and Alli in the team he will never get played in the position where he has excelled the most, and it’s better that he goes out as the record goal scorer and captain than as an unused, unwanted sub, or playing in a midfield position where he has never looked 100% comfortable. He now gets to focus on his final club years with Everton, and on the 60 goals that separate him from the all time premier league goal scoring record (currently held by Alan Shearer, who also retired from international duty young at 29). Does Rooney have the legs to keep going? I don’t think so, and I personally would rather Shearer kept that record, but only time will tell. all we can say for now is that Rooney is an Icon of the English game.
Now comes the nasty bit. There’s rarely been a lack of controversy surrounding Wayne Rooney, be it soliciting prostitutes in his younger years, allegations of infidelity from his wife Colleen, libel charges against him from David Moyes (costing him £500,000), and countless others throughout his career. Most recently it was drink driving, a charge that he pleaded guilty to, earning him a 2 year driving ban, and 120 hours of unpaid community work. Not only this, but he was driving a VW Beetle that belonged to a girl he had met whilst out drinking, which has prompted a tabloid outpouring about infidelity and scandal. I don’t wish to go into the libel game, but usually where there’s smoke there’s fire, and Rooney’s career is starting to look a bit like a chimney. On a serious note, it is a massive shame that Rooney’s personal life seems to constantly be insect disarray because no one can deny his talent, but as Ferguson once answered to the question of why he wasn’t playing Rooney “No one is better than Rooney when he’s fit”. I’m sure Ferguson at the time was referring to Rooney’s “stocky” build for a number of years, but I’m sure Rooney must be affected mentally by this constant turmoil. Has it made him a worse player? We’ll never know for sure but when you look at the way his goal scoring record has yo-yoed throughout his career I would say it was likely.
Is he the best ever in the Premier League? No. Is he a legend? I would say yes. In spite of what he’s done off of the pitch (and even sometimes on the pitch) he’s a household name, he’s a record breaker, and he’s a champion. But then again, I had his name on the back of my shirt when I was 7 years old, so maybe there’s a bias in my view.