Remember in the 94/95 season when Robbie Fowler made the breakthrough at Liverpool and was scoring goals for fun?
The following season he went on to do even better! He was one of the most gifted finishers the English game has produced. He grew up as an Everton fan. At 26 was sold to Leeds and his career started on a downward spiral. I also remember a 17 year old Michael Owen scoring a consolation goal for Liverpool against Wimbledon, on his debut; the night we won the title. This superstar footballer who was going to break all the records at club and international level. He too grew up as an Everton fan and at 26 he suffered a horrific knee injury playing for England and never recovered. His career has gone downhill ever since.
Now I know that age and boyhood allegiances are tedious links, but at 16 years old Wayne Rooney was billed as the greatest England player of all time. Has he really fulfilled that potential? Would someone outside of England safely put him in the top 25 players in Europe? Let alone top 3.
He was tearing reserve teams apart up and down the country before that, and scored that wonder goal at 16 years against arguably Arséne Wenger’s greatest assembled side. He soon made his England debut and was fearless in the most hostile of environments such as Istanbul. He became on the most expensive teenager in football history on the back of a fantastic Euro 2004, cruelly ended by a broken metatarsal which has haunted him ever since.
When he scored a hat trick on his debut, it was not beyond the realm of doubt that he could become United’s greatest ever player. From when he arrived, until the 2006 World Cup, some even labelled us a one man team, we were so reliant on the young scouser; even though his strike partner was Ruud Van Nistelrooy and we had Cristiano Ronaldo in our ranks. Another broken metatarsal meant he went to a world cup not fully fit and, after a poor tournament and, unsurprisingly give they’re United players, he, along with Cristiano Ronaldo returned as national hate figures following their infamous spat.
Cristiano Ronaldo embraced his newfound status as public enemy number in world football; he was publically denied FIFA Young Player of the Tournament because of his “antics”, and went on to earn what he felt was rightfully his; his status at the world’s best. Rooney just remained United’s second best player.
In 2006/07 we had a record 8 players in the team of the PFA Team of the Year. No Wayne Rooney. In fact he has only ever been in 3 in his career. Steven Gerrard has been in 6 in that time. Yet still it’s Wayne Rooney who’s considered to be England’s superstar. Now the United bias in me has always maintained he is world class. The best English player around. Second only in world football to Ronaldo and Messi. But how can we honestly believe that? He has never been anywhere near being nominated for the Ballon d’Or. Both Lampard and Gerrard have finished in the top 3, so it’s no conspiracy against the English. He won the PFA Player of the Year Award in 2010 despite not being the league’s top scorer, nor playing for the league champions that season. Would he have won it were he not English? He’s played in 3 Champions League Finals and not shone in any. Despite winning it in 2008, he was substituted and, although it has since been denied by the player, and for obvious reasons forgotten about, he threw a tantrum on his way to the bench, throwing his shirt to the ground.
In England we have this bad habit of overhyping our promising players: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott are three recent examples. They are not superstars. They are (or were in the case of Walcott) talented young footballers with potential to be good, but great? Can you ever see them challenging for Europe’s top player awards? Are they in the same league as Neymar, Hazard or Christian Eriksen? They’re English and talented so we automatically assume they’re world superstars. And it’s the same with Wayne Rooney. He was playing his best football in 2010. Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi were undoubtedly the two best players in the world, so Rooney had to have been number 3, right?
Wayne Rooney’s has bursts where he is unplayable. He’s a confidence player, no doubt. And he is extremely talented, no doubt, but has really become the player we expected him to be? This is not just a knee jerk reaction to last Monday’s performance. He was poor so often last season, and would often score a brace while having a very poor game. While we can find excuses to explain them all, he has never truly shone at a major tournament. In fact, he’s been dreadful at every single one. He’s never scored a world cup goal, and he’s never even looked like scoring one. I don’t think we should sell him as I think he is a very good; he’s just not the player we expected him to be prior to the 2006 World Cup. He’s nowhere near the top players in the world. Were we to sell him, do you really think we could get the same amount that Chelsea paid for Fernando Torres?
Follow me on twitter for more Red views @ACRUTD