It's time for Wayne Rooney to leave England and English football behind him
When a footballer makes such an incredible impact at an amazingly young age, it should come as no surprise that the fall from grace should also arrive a little early.
That is where we stand with Wayne Rooney. A very good player for club(s) and country who at the age of 30 has long since reached his peak and who’s career is now or probably has been for a while, if you will excuse the pun, on the wane.
Should he be jeered, though, for not being as good as he once was?
Probably not, but it’s quite understandable that the Manchester United forward-cum-average midfielder was booed by a section of England supporters during the side’s 2-0 win over Malta at Wembley on Saturday.
To many fans, Rooney represents the modern English top flight footballer; swimming in cash and, in their minds, underachieving massively on the international stage.
He hasn’t helped himself.
Rooney handed in a transfer request at Everton while still a teenager, despite the ‘once a Blue, always a Blue,’ mantra and then threw a strop at Manchester United, too, before eventually gaining lucrative new contracts.
There was also an on-pitch dig at England fans into the television cameras as boos rang out immediately following a disappointing draw with Algeria at the World Cup in South Africa: “Nice to see your own fans booing you, you football ‘supporters’.”
Following that came a period of maturity which would eventually culminate in captaining his country, something which he genuinely appeared to take great pride in.
However, when looking back over his career as a whole, Rooney will most likely be regarded as an excellent footballer who showed quite a few glimpses of brilliance but who never reached the heights that his early displays promised he would.
He may well be England’s leading goalscorer but if you were to be ultra-critical, where are the goals against the so-called ‘big’ teams?
England have, bar that disaster under Steve McClaren, cruised through qualification for major tournaments, seeded highly and as a result taking on a number of teams who most top footballers would fancy their chances of getting on the scoresheet against.
Look through the list of his 53 international goals and who they came against.
With respect to Macedonia, Kazakhstan and Scotland and even taking into consideration that ‘there are no easy games in international football’ isn’t a lie, the opposition isn’t exactly a who’s who of world football’s powerhouses.
And when Rooney did score against the likes of Holland, Brazil, France and Argentina they were all in friendlies.
On the biggest stages he has been a consistent let down, basically since an excellent Euro 2004.
At club level, that goal for Everton against Arsenal; the hat-trick on his Manchester United debut; the overhead kick in the Manchester derby... all stunning, but now a fading memory, beaten away by the vision of his desperate displays in the summer’s European Championships in France.
Now playing in midfield for United and England, Rooney has found himself at a stage where, frankly, there are better players than him up front and in the middle of the park for club and country. This is why Jose Mourinho has placed him on the bench and why Gareth Southgate did the same on Tuesday against Slovakia.
Some said it was a bold call for Southgate to drop the skipper, other more reasoned pundits offered the opinion that in football you choose your best players, or at least those in form.
Rooney is neither of those.
The sad thing is, it appears unlikely we will ever see a Wayne Rooney anywhere close to his best ever again.
For that reason it would do no harm for the player himself to take the quandry out of everyone else’s hands and slope off into the sunset before his legacy is further damaged. International retirement should be looming, and a few years living the high life in LA wouldn’t do him any harm either.