Everton: Wayne Rooney’s legacy is slowly being tainted
As rumours swirl about Rooney moving to MLS, RealSport look back on a career that risks being tainted by its ending.
This article could have been written years ago.
Wayne Rooney might be young at 32 but he was finished by his 30th birthday.
This week, the Washington Post linked the former England striker with a move to D.C. United. There is a “50% chance” he could join a club in the lower reaches of Major League Soccer.
It’s fair to say that Rooney’s Everton homecoming has been a flagellating disappointment.
Deployment in a deeper midfield position was supposed to mask his failing legs but he’s still looked off the pace in a team mired amidst an awful season.
Will the move to MLS reinvigorate it?
Rooney’s career feels bizarrely anti-climactic.
Following his breakthrough in 2003, Rooney was a player who combined the sleuth of David with the brawn of Goliath.
He was hairier than most of the Arsenal players against whom he scored that goal and he was of equal quality too.
He might not have been old enough to vote but he was old enough to decide contests against full internationals.
As farcical as it may seem, Euro 2004 feels like his pinnacle.
A hat-trick against Fenerbahce on his Champions League debut for Manchester United announced his arrival on the continental stage but it was in Portugal where he truly shone.
Against France in the opening fixture, it was his thick forearms which muscled England a penalty.
David Beckham might have missed the resulting kick but Rooney was even more dangerous against Switzerland.
Two goals there made him the youngest scorer in the history of the European Championship, but a further double in the final fixture against Croatia had everyone petrified.
Six years after Michael Owen had ghosted past the entire Argentine defence, England had a new wunderkind.
A broken foot sustained in the next round against Portugal might have put an end to his tournament, but his legend was only just beginning.
The records melted away in the years that followed.
England’s all-time leading goalscorer became Manchester United’s too but Rooney has never had to swim his way through compliments and platitudes.
A penchant for the salacious helped see to that but the 32-year-old is far from being the only footballer with lurid regrets.
Rather, it was his repeated willingness to play brinkmanship with Manchester United that left the most metallic of tastes.
In 2010 and with Manchester City circling, Rooney handed in a transfer request. The club, he said, was lacking in sufficient ambition, just two years after winning the Champions League.
A bumper new contract was penned and his sporting concerns were suddenly quashed.
Rooney’s relationship with Sir Alex Ferguson felt strained from then on.
He was still brilliant, of course, but in patches only.
Three seasons later, he suggested that “it might be better” for him to leave the club in search of regular first-team football.
Ferguson’s allusion that the player had handed in another transfer request were, Rooney would later insist, totally inaccurate.
For a while, David Moyes’ punishing training regime looked like offering the bloated star a reprieve.
Rooney was the club’s top scorer that year and in Louis van Gaal’s freshman campaign too but 25 goals over two years was hardly predatorial.
His departure from Manchester last summer was greeted apathetically.
Everton hearts had been salved by the passage of time but Rooney never really gave Goodison Park a reason to embrace him the way they did fifteen years ago.
Slow, erratic and not having scored since December, he is almost certain to leave his second team in twelve months.
Rooney’s decline hasn’t been stark. It hasn’t been brought about by injury either. It has been a long and sorry descent, a sad petering out of what at once felt like a belching fire.
For the player that rifled in a bicycle kick against Manchester City and for the player who almost burned a hole through Shay Given’s net in 2005, it is the coldest end.
Why do you think Rooney faded so badly? Let us know by commenting below.