There was a time in 2010 where many believed Wayne Rooney to be on the verge of joining Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi at the summit of European football. 34 goals in all competitions for Manchester United had the Englishman finally getting the credit he deserved. Many thought that, after a stellar World Cup, his place in footballing folklore would be assured.
However things just did not quite work out. Four drab, lacklustre showings inSouth Africa prompted the supporters readying their scalpels in order to dissect. And what they found, in a tournament where no player performed to their potential, was that Rooney was the architect of their plight. In a way his reputation has never recovered since.
But Rooney was never going to be a player in the same vein of Ronaldo and Messi - despite protestations that he should be. Selfless instead of snarling, excitable rather than egocentric, he simply never had the lust to push himself that bit further. It's a fact that has counted against him but worked in the favour of Manchester United and England on countless occasions.
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There's something just not quite right about the way a player due to become the leading scorer in English history remains a divisive character amongst the fans. Though his contributions at major tournaments have been questionable, it should be no surprise.
The squad Sven Goran Eriksson took to Euro 2004 was the strongest this nation have boasted in recent years. With David James in goal, Rio Ferdinand and Sol Campbell in defence, Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard commanding the midfield and Rooney and Michael Owen up top, their quarter-final exit to Portugal was premature.
It is the only time where Rooney has grabbed a major tournament by the scruff of the neck. Only Milan Baros of the Czech Republic found the net more times than the Evertonian - whose showings then earned him a chance to play under Sir Alex Ferguson at United. In the tournaments since he has never had sufficient quality around him to make an impact.
In the years that have followed England's increasing poorness has never been blamed on the lack of talent in the squad. But though Raheem Sterling, Ross Barkley and Danny Welbeck may yet take the world by storm in the coming years, they are a far cry from the quality Rooney had around him in 2004. You can only work with the tools provided rather than the ones out of range.
And then there is his contribution at club level, something that the pundits and certain columnists will have you believe is waning by the year. Nobody ever talks of Rooney's willingness to sacrifice himself for United in order to allow those around him to take centre stage.
Whilst Ronaldo was at Old Trafford it often meant Rooney being played out of position. Sometimes in midfield, but more often on the wing, for his work rate and sheer footballing thirst ensured he always be selected no matter what. He and Ferguson often clashed but one thing that could never be doubted was his willingness to adapt to the needs of the team.
Now 29, he is set to do the same for Louis van Gaal. He did last year - playing in central midfield whilst Angel di Maria, Radamel Falcao or Robin van Persie spearheaded the attack - but even in the billions of articles found on Google not a single one contained any protests from the player. That's the way its been since day one.
It will now be the same again when Van Gaal will inevitably reposition him in order to get the best out of summer signings Memphis Depay and Anthony Martial. Ronaldo and Messi seek individual accolades whereas Rooney only wants gongs with the team. Some will say that's what has extinguished the fire in the belly - but others will say that's what makes him such a special footballer.
Does Wayne Rooney deserve more plaudits for his selfless play? Let us know below!
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