You would struggle to find any country’s top goal scorer who isn’t adored by their respective nations. So with Wayne Rooney set to top England’s chart, why has he divided opinion ever since exploding on to the scene in 2004?
Two strikes against Scotland leave the current England captain just three behind Sir Bobby Charlton in the list of honours, but there are still some who argue that he doesn’t compare to the previous greats such as Gary Lineker, Alan Shearer and Jimmy Greaves.
Admittedly Rooney’s goal per game record doesn’t look too exciting on paper, 46 goals in 101 appearances (that’s a goal every 2.2 games.) However, he was frequently deployed out wide or forced to drop deep during his early England days, limiting his goal scoring opportunities.
Now the team is built around him and Rooney has got the freedom to roam wherever necessary. One main criticism directed at the forward is his inability to perform at a major tournament.
Arguably there hasn’t been a better performance at a major tournament by any England player since Rooney’s during Euro 2004. Aged 18, he scored three in four matches and epitomised everything good about English football.
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He was injured in the build up to both the 2006 and 2010 World Cups and missed the opening two games of Euro 2012 through suspension; factors that would affect any player from making a serious impact.
The 2014 World Cup was set up to be Rooney’s tournament, but England were setup defensively and looked sluggish all over the pitch, culminating in being dumped out the competition at the group stage. England only scored two goals but Rooney got one and setup the other, with better players around him there could have been a lot more.
But since the captain’s armband has fixed around his arm, the striker has notched six goals in as many games and is genuinely enjoying being the leader of relatively inexperienced team.
At 29, only a career-ending injury will stop Rooney making the most appearances in an England shirt and the goal scoring record is inevitable. Rooney has never shied away from England duty and in a few decades time will be the one player from the current generation, the national team would wish to have back. That’s the sign of a great player.