Ever since breaking onto the footballing scene as a 16-year-old, Wayne Rooney has been a footballer who has had to deal with enormous expectations at both club and international level.
The goal that he scored against Arsenal in October 2002, just five days before he turned 17, is an iconic goal as the youthful Rooney brought down a high ball from Thomas Gravesen beautifully with his right, spun around to face the goal and, as the Arsenal defenders backed off, he hit a curled shot from 25 yards that hit the underside of the crossbar before bouncing into the back of the net.
That was truly the beginning of the hype and expectation as the Evertonian received his first England cap in February 2003, before going on to score four goals in four games for his country in Euro 2004.
BECOME A WRITER
Do you have what it takes? Sign up today and send over your 250 word test article: http://gms.to/haveyoursay3
Article continues below
What followed was a mega-money move to Manchester United at the age of 18 and a hat-trick in his debut game against Fenerbahce in the Champions League.
Since his move to Manchester United, he has gone on to win five Premier League titles, two League Cups and one Champions League. He has the opportunity to complete the set with an FA Cup win on Saturday against Crystal Palace.
Article continues below
While Rooney’s career has undoubtedly been a success for both club and country, the 30-year-old seems to be reaching a crucial stage of his career where important decisions must be made.
The Manchester United and England captain has lost some of the fire that defined him earlier in his career and he has clearly lost a lot of pace as the years begin to catch up with him.
Rooney still has a lot to offer to both club and country but, as he is beginning to realise, his ability to influence games as a striker has diminished and he must adapt his game to prolong his career at the top.
It has been reported that the Everton youth product has made it clear to both Louis van Gaal and Roy Hodgson that he would like to play as a holding midfielder at the Euros and, perhaps, beyond.
This, it seems, is an admission from Rooney that he is no longer suited to a striker’s role and he would be accurate in his analysis.
His scoring record for club and country is excellent. He is the leading goalscorer for England with 51 goals in 109 games and he has also netted consistently for Manchester United, with 244 goals in all competitions for the club.
Over the years, however, Rooney’s goal-scoring has dried up and he will end this season with his lowest goal tally of his United career, with just seven league goals (unless he scores four against Bournemouth on Tuesday night).
With the emergence of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial at Manchester United and Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy for England, Rooney’s place in the respective teams has been questioned by fans and pundits.
His place in both teams receives a boost by the fact that he is the captain for both, but he cannot be considered a first-choice striker anymore.
Rooney’s seeming determination to reinvent himself as a midfielder could, potentially, reignite his career as he heads, gradually, into the twilight of his wonderful footballing journey.
He has all of the attributes to be able to play as a central midfielder.
He can tackle, track-back, pass, instigate an attack, provide assists, spray long balls across the pitch and reads the game well.
His constant desire to be involved in the game will also be satisfied in a midfield role and Van Gaal’s admission that Rooney was frustrated that he had to play as a striker at Norwich recently, is a sure-fire marker that the United number 10 is hungry to grasp this opportunity and relinquish his role as a striker.
It is an interesting turn of events for a player who, back in the summer of 2013, handed in a transfer request after seemingly being replaced by Robin van Persie, and it is surely a sign that he has matured further as a player and a man that he is analysing his style of play.
Exactly where Rooney will fit into the England team will be a fascinating story to follow and, beyond the Euros, in what position the 30-year-old will begin the 2016-17 season for his club will also be something to look out for.
Rooney has the opportunity to prolong his career in a different position and it is a positive sign that he has finally accepted that he must adapt to a midfield role to ensure that he continues to play at the highest level.
Do YOU want to write for GiveMeSport? Get started today by signing-up and submitting an article HERE: http://gms.to/writeforgms