In the week that has seen him receive his 100th England cap, and move in to third place on the all-time goal scoring list with three goals in two games, the debate rages on as to whether Wayne Rooney could be, or should be, regarded as a great English player.
A great player?
Both sides can point to valid reasoning in their arguments. Rooney has maintained a career at the top level since emerging on the scene in 2002 and has continued to perform week in week out for his clubs, Manchester United and Everton, and also constantly make himself available for international duty with England.
To continue at this level, for such a prolonged period of time, is worthy of the ‘great’ tag. At club level Rooney has achieved plenty both personally and with his team. He has reached three Champions League finals, winning once and has won the Premier League trophy on five occasions, along with six other honours.
Added to this he will probably end his United career as their all-time record goal scorer. To play for the Red Devils for a decade is a sure sign that you have an element of star quality about you. His record at club level cannot be argued with.
It is at international level that people have their doubts as to whether he can be truly judged as a great player. England have under achieved throughout Rooney's career and the player himself has also failed to light up a tournament since he burst on the scene in the 2004 European Championships, scoring four goals in four appearances.
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From that point onwards expectations of him have been huge, arguably too big, and his critics will say that he has never fulfilled his early potential. He will, however, end his England career having scored the most international goals for his country, overtaking Sir Bobby Charlton’s record of 49, and will probably overtake Peter Shilton as the most capped player.
He will have also captained his country on a number of occasions. Apart from being part of a World Cup or European Championships winning team he can achieve very little else. However, to achieve such a feat he needs a team around him who are equally capable of achieving this goal. Unfortunately England are still some way short of challenging for honours.
Surely his club and country record should make him worthy of being an English great when we look back in years to come?
The issues at hand
The problem with Rooney is that he is English. He has been the focus of intense media attention all his life, they have built him up only to knock him back down, as is their way. He has, for the most part, emerged from any criticism levelled at him with his reputation still intact, and to his credit he is still going strong.
Rooney is often compared to the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, which I feel is extremely unfair as these two players are once in a generation footballers who just happen to be playing during the same era. They are definitely greats in the modern game but neither of these players have achieved a World Cup success either.
The one thing that Rooney does have that nobody can argue with is his will to win and his commitment to every game he plays. He still has a number of years left at the top level and who knows what else he can go on to achieve at club and country level.
Rooney has earned the right to be talked about in the same breath as other English greats and perhaps, like many, his career will be more celebrated once it is finally over.
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