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The most polarising figure in football

Love him, hate him, you cannot deny that everyone has an opinion on him. Since he burst onto the scene after scoring “that goal” against David Seaman, the spotlight has been constantly on his shoulders. From the age of 16, Wayne Rooney has been scrutinised unlike any other footballer in this country. Every moment he made a wrong decision or a mistake he would regret, that would dominate the headlines in the papers for days to come. Yet, time and again, he has delivered in any possible capacity. Even if it was not with a magical goal, the desire and commitment shown by Rooney could never be questioned. Surely, that is all we can ask of a player in sport. However, it seems that for England’s record goalscorer, that was never going to be enough. Why do so many people feel that he failed to deliver?

Rooney England

“He didn’t deliver in a World Cup or win us the Euros.” The amount of times this line has been used when describing Rooney is actually sickening. Do people not remember Euro 2004? The teenage sensation at the time simply bulldozed past teams and the panache with which he scored made everyone sit up and take notice. Only an unfortunate injury in the quarter-final against Portugal denied him quite possibly a chance of winning a trophy for his country. People will now say, “what ifs are there in everyone’s career, we will only remember what he delivered.” Many fans will point to his moment of petulance in the 2006 World Cup against the same opponent. Furthermore, his failure to reproduce club form in the World Cup’s next edition in South Africa was only heightened by his camera outburst in the game against Algeria. These are key stages in Rooney’s career and should be looked at with a tinge of sadness, rather than a point of criticism. Besides, he cannot be the lone reason for the failure of England at major tournaments. He may have been the only “world-class” (should not be a debate, but with Rooney it inevitably is) player the national team had, but football is a team game. Portugal’s success at last year’s Euros was not solely down to Cristiano Ronaldo, in fact people would say he didn’t have the greatest tournament. England should actually be thankful to Rooney because without him, the aberration of not qualifying for the 2008 European Championships may have been a more regular occurrence. So before you say the sentence at the beginning of this paragraph, just remember that England was not a one man team when Rooney played for the national side.

Speaking of Ronaldo, during the early part of Rooney’s career, it was thought that these two would be fighting with Lionel Messi for the Balon D’or for years to come. The expectation simply kept rising, but Rooney was not able to meet the hopes of people. While everyone lays this as yet another criticism against his name, they are missing one key piece of information. During his illustrious career, the Englishman has always put the needs of the team above his own desires. He accepted any position in the side, on the left flank, the right side, in midfield or as his preferred striker role. This selflessness has led him to playing in roles where he probably didn’t want to, but we never heard him causing any commotion amongst the ranks. If Ronaldo or Messi were asked to play in midfield earlier on in their career, would they have been as effective as Rooney? We will never know but again, this should not be held as a criticism against the new member of the 200 Premier League Goals club. Furthermore, we say he has not got to the heights that Ronaldo and Messi have reached, but who has? When speaking about Rooney, there is always the perception that grass is greener on the other side. Appreciate the levels of genius we have seen from this phenomenal footballer, England may not see someone like him for a very long time.

Rooney England 2004

Therefore, as Rooney hangs up his international boots, citizens of this country should take a long hard look at how they have treated their record goalscorer for the last 15 years. Constant ridicule, putting a huge spotlight on him and general distaste towards his success have characterised many people’s memory of this all time great. The treatment of Rooney has been nothing more than pathetic at times, and only after a certain amount of time will the public realise how special he really was. The shame will be that he will no longer be on the pitch for his country, and all those “fans” will think to themselves how it would have been if they actually supported him. It could have all been so different.