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Wayne Rooney is allegedly on the verge of returning to boyhood club Everton, 13 years after leaving. Manchester United’s all-time leading scorer will join on a free but will remain on his 250,000 per week wages. This undoubtedly will be the 31 year old’s final contract in competitive football before retirement or a move to MLS or China. So lets look back at his career and ask, where does Rooney rank among the best ever?
Rooney started his professional career in the youth ranks of Everton aged 11 until he finally broke into the first team at 17. He played for Everton for two seasons making 67 appearances and scoring 15 goals, the most memorable being his strike against Arsenal. Rooney became a household name in 2004 when he starred for England in the European Championship, becoming the youngest scorer in competition history. He scored four goals in four games and was named in the team of the tournament. At 17 years of age, Rooney had already become the next great English hope.
United thought so too, and grabbed their man in the summer of 2004 for a fee of 25.6 million pounds plus add ons which for the time, and his age, was a very commanding fee and a big risk. No one went for more money in the Premier League during that window, and for some perspective, Michael Owen in his prime at 25 moved to Madrid from Liverpool for 8 million pounds.
13 years later, Rooney has won the Premier League five times, the UEFA Champions League, the FIFA Club World Cup, the FA Cup and the UEFA Europa League all while making his way to the top of United’s all time goal scoring charts with 253 goals. For England, since Euro 2004, Rooney has featured in three World Cups; 06, 10, and 14, and is widely regarded as England’s best player of recent history having won the England Player of the Year award four times, in 2008, 2009, 2014 and 2015.
Despite his wonderful and numerous goals, his trophies, his personal achievements, and his sizzling partnerships with some of the best players in the world, why is Wayne Rooney yet to be mentioned confidently among names like Ronaldinho, Thierry Henry, or even Zlatan? Some will say that his name does come up, but how many EPL best 11s have Wayne Rooney in the team? Surely as England’s most successful club’s top goal scorer, he should be in every single one. So why isn’t he?
We must, for obvious reasons, conclude that its not because of lack of goals or achievements. Could it be his one (or two) club-man status which has increased his appreciation among United fans but has taken away from his international world wide fame that comes with crazy transfer fees and excessive attention? Could it be that he, though not absent, lacked in the flair department? Could it be his quiet character (for the most part) that doesn’t attract the camera?
Rooney has also played for a very long time and with very few injuries. This is why at the age of 31 it feels like he should have retired three years ago. Rooney’s odometer is reading a very high mileage for a young car. He’s played a lot of football. As a result, the last four or so years of choppy performances haven’t helped his legacy. He hasn’t been at his best since the 2011-2012 season and this will contribute to how people remember him. He just didn’t keep going. I’m sure, had he had Ronaldo’s drive or Zlatans fitness, and continued playing at or close to his best until today, he would be easily remembered as one of the best to ever grace a football field, not just in Britain, but in the world.
Everton now have a mammoth challenge ahead of them in what is one of the weirdest transfer decisions this off-season: to get a player on 250 grand a week who is very much past his prime, to play like a star signing. Surely you don’t pay someone this much to say a few words in the dressing room. Surely you pay them that much to contribute on the field. Ronald Koeman will have to get the best out of him, and I suggest he starts in the gym. If rumors are to be believed, Rooney could partner up top with Olivier Giroud come the start of the season as Everton are chasing the 20 million pound Arsenal striker. Could this be Rooney’s final partnership? It really would be Donkey and Shrek.