Wayne Rooney announced his international retirement today after scoring 53 goals in 119 appearances for England.
The Everton forward rejected the chance to return to the squad for next month’s World Cup qualifiers against Malta and Slovakia, insisting that now is the time to put this chapter to bed.
The 31-year-old became England’s all-time leading goalscorer but his international career will always be tinged with a hint of regret.
He burst onto the scene at the European Championship in 2004 and many thought Rooney could lead the Three Lions to international glory.
But only one of his 53 goals was scored at a World Cup finals.
Former England international Gary Lineker hit out at those criticising Rooney’s international career, saying they should “stick to playing FIFA”.
“So many buffoons denouncing @WayneRooney’s international career,” Lineker wrote on Twitter.
“You have no idea how good he is or how hard it is. Stick to playing FIFA.”
Dean Ashton's emotional tweet
Another player to tweet about Rooney was former West Ham United striker Dean Ashton, who received one cap for England in 2008.
Ashton’s career was ruined by injuries and he was sadly forced to retire in 2009, aged just 26.
The ex-Norwich City striker broke his ankle three years prior to his retirement and, despite a number of operations, was never able to return to full fitness.
So Ashton’s body decided when it was time to retire, rather than himself. And his tweet following Rooney’s announcement proves that it still hurts the former Hammer.
He wrote: “Players retiring themselves though!! If they knew what being 'forced' to retire was like they would NEVER UTTER the word!”
Pretty heartbreaking stuff.
Ashton received compensation from the Football Association following his early retirement but it didn’t make up for the years he’s lost playing.
“There is not a day that goes by that I do not wish I could still play,” Ashton said in an interview with the Evening Standard in 2013. “When there are still people in the game that you played with, you are bound to feel a little bit bitter. It is hard not to.
“It is even more difficult in a World Cup year. I got one cap, which was great but it is always going to be in the back of my mind that I should have played more for my country.
“Who knows what might have happened? I do not think there is any harm in feeling like that. It is only natural. You have got to get to a point where you can’t let it eat you up.”
Ashton shares no ill-feeling towards Rooney, of course, but it’s easy to see why the Everton striker’s international retirement hurts him.