Where does Wayne Rooney rank amongst the greatest Premier League strikers?

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By weight of pure statistics, Wayne Rooney must be considered amongst the very best strikers in Premier League history.

Having scoring the only goal on Sunday in Manchester United's 1-0 win at Anfield, Rooney broke Thierry Henry's record for the most goals scored by a player for a single club in league history.

With 191 goals - including 176 for United - Rooney has lit up the Premier League, however; how does he rank against these fellow legendary strikers?


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Rooney or Drogba?

Whereas Rooney has been accused in recent years of sometimes going missing in the big games, Didier Drogba regularly rose to the big occasion - he was Man of the Match in the 2012 Champions League final against Bayern Munich, for taking the game into extra time with a powerful header before converting the winning penalty.

Drogba's 104 Premier League goals, in nine seasons over two spells for Chelsea, made him a club legend. As well as the 2012 Champions League, Drogba also won four Premier League titles along with four FA Cups.

On his day, Drogba could be close to unstoppable. His immense strength made him a nightmare for opposition defenders whilst his deadly finishing - particularly in the 2009/10 season when he won the Golden Boot with 29 league goals - made him a constant threat.

Verdict: A very difficult decision, however, Rooney shades it. He has won one more league title, will end his career with more than 100 more league goals and has devoted his entire career to the Premier League.

Though pivotal in the 2009/10 season, Drogba was largely a squad player last season whilst Jose Mourinho's first two titles in 2005 and 2006 owed more to their defensive stability and Frank Lampard's goals, than Drogba's input - though he still did this.

Rooney or Bergkamp?

At the risk of offending Arsenal fans, Rooney wins this one for me.

Though Bergkamp was instrumental in instigating Arsenal's success under Arsene Wenger and was half of arguably the most deadly partnership in Premier League history, Rooney's superior record both in terms of silverware and goals edges it. 

With his playmaking abilities, Bergkamp wasn't a conventional striker and though he was probably a better player than Rooney, the latter is worthy of a higher place in Premier League history. 

Rooney's 191 league goals easily eclipse Bergkamp's return of 87, whilst the Manchester United man also has more assists with 84, to the Dutchman's 49.

Bergkamp's three league titles were crucial in altering the balance of English football however, Rooney has five - including three in a row from 2007 to 2009.

Verdict: Strikers are defined by their goal returns and although statistics can be misleading, Rooney has had a greater impact on the Premier League.

Rooney or Cantona?

Any conversation about the Premier league's best strikers simply has to include Eric Cantona. 

The catalyst for Manchester United's dominance of English football, King Eric's arrival from Leeds United for just £1.2 million exceeded all expectations. Four Premier League titles followed in five seasons, with Cantona spearheading United's domestic dominance.

However, for all Cantona's charisma and undoubted quality, he only ever shone in the Premier League, with Champions League victory escaping United till the historic treble in 1999, two years after Cantona had retired at just 30-years-old. 

In contrast, Rooney has not only won the Champions League, in Moscow in 2008 but also featured prominently for over a decade - he has 88 appearances in Europe's premier competition with 34 goals, including United's only goal in the 3-1 final defeat to Barcelona in 2011.

Verdict: though Cantona helped build the foundations for future success at Old Trafford and gave us incredible highlights such as his chip against Sunderland, Rooney's longevity in the Premier League, as well as his success in Europe gives him the edge here.

Rooney or Shearer?

With his best years undoubtedly behind him, Rooney is unlikely to chase down Shearer's impressive 260 Premier League goal haul.

In 14 seasons at Blackburn Rovers and then Newcastle United, Shearer racked up the personal accolades as a dominant striker. 

Despite his assertion that he has "no regrets" at turning down Sir Alex Ferguson's advances, Shearer's sole Premier league winners medal with Blackburn in 1995, is scant reward for a player of such stature. 

Having cut his international career short in 2000 aged only 30, Shearer benefitted from his reduced playing time to prolong his career with his beloved Newcastle, allowing him to break Jackie Milburn's record as the top scorer in the club's history. 

Rooney's trophy cabinet and European record are vastly superior, however, Shearer's goal scoring record could quite feasibly remain unbeaten for many years. Rooney's goal return has slowed significantly this season - Sunday's strike was just his sixth league goal of the season - and scoring more than 260 would require an entire career in the Premier League. 

Verdict: though he only has one league medal compared to Rooney's five, such was Shearer's influence on that solitary triumph- he scored 34 goals in the 1994/5 season - this is a worthy argument.

Shearer's consistency was outstanding and his superior goal returns in inferior teams - he scored more than 20 league goals in a season seven times whereas Rooney has only ever done so twice - sees him edge this one.

Here's that strike against Everton:

Rooney or Henry?

For all Rooney's records and influence this still isn't much of a debate. Henry remains arguably the best player in Premier League history, as Cristiano Ronaldo's peak years have come for Real Madrid.

In just eight years, Henry scored an incredible 175 goals from just 254 starts and played a crucial role in Arsenal changing the landscape of the Premier League forever. 

The Frenchman had everything. Pace, guile, balance, skill and above all a deadly finish, Henry pledged his peak years to Arsenal before moving to Barcelona in 2006.

Though in his time at Highbury and latterly the Emirates, Henry won just two league titles compared to Rooney's five, such was the Frenchman's influence on these triumphs that he has to top the pile. 

From 2001/2 to 2005/6 Henry's goal tallies were simply phenomenal: 24 when he claimed his first title, 24, 30 as Arsenal went undefeated, 25 and then 27. As a result, the Frenchman claimed the Golden Boot four times whilst his 77 assists were crucial in producing arguably the best football the Premier League has produced. 

In contrast, Rooney's 176 goals have come from 481 league games whilst the Manchester United man has never claimed the award every striker covets, the Golden Boot.

Verdict: Henry - would top almost any list related to the Premier League and that goal against Liverpool is part of Premier League legend.


Why is Rooney still underappreciated?

Despite his numerous records and hugely successful career, some may baulk at the idea of even comparing Rooney to Henry or Shearer.

Predominantly this stems from Rooney's unfulfilled potential, particularly for England. As an 18-year-old Rooney was the stand-out talent at Euro 2004 and seemingly had the football world at his feet.

Though, for a short period around 2009, Rooney was widely considered a world-class talent, he has never consistently dominated competitions, whilst the comparisons with Ronaldo are damning. 

Whereas Ronaldo has continually taken his game to new levels each season till this year, Rooney peaked at around 24 without really improving on the raw talent that saw him emerge at just 16.

However, regardless of what he could have achieved, with his longevity, goal return and impressive medal haul - no striker has more than his five league titles - Rooney is still worthy of third, place in the Premier League's greatest strikers. 

Do you think Rooney is worthy of this assessment? Have your say in the comment box below!

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Thierry Henry
Premier League
Didier Drogba
Manchester United
Wayne Rooney

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