On Wednesday, Wayne Rooney retired from international football aged 31. He made his debut on 12th February 2003, aged 17 and 111 days, and went on to win an incredible 119 caps for England. He made a promising start to his England career and starred in Euro 2004 in Portugal, becoming the youngest scorer in tournament history for England.
Unfortunately, he got injured in the quarter-finals of the same tournament but still left his mark and things boded well for the future. After that, he never lived up to his potential at international level and, rather frustratingly, did not always perform at his best in major tournaments. Nevertheless, he still broke the England goal-scoring record, netting 53 goals in total.
Two of his most memorable moments playing for England came in Euro 2004 when he burst onto the scene and his goal against Switzerland at Wembley in the process breaking Bobby Charlton’s long-standing record.
Phil Neville, a fellow England squad member at Euro 2004, recalls:
“I remember when he first got into the squad – the youthfulness, the bravery, the courage he showed, particularly at his first major tournament in Portugal. “He was a breath of fresh air. No-one enjoyed playing for England more than Wayne Rooney.”
Ups and downs
Although he had many highlights and memorable moments in an England shirt, there were some downsides as well. They included getting sent off against Portugal and another red card for a heavy challenge against Montenegro. The nadir in his international career was perhaps during the 2010 World Cup where he had a scoreless tournament and infamously shouted down the camera lens, criticising the fans, after the goalless draw against Algeria.
However, he is a player who has always played on the edge and whilst that led to some negative and controversial incidents, it is also what characterised his style of play and led to some positive and uplifting moments for both club and country.
A victim of his own success
No one could question the passion which Rooney showed or his commitment to the side and he was never one to shirk a challenge. Moreover, he captained the side on a number of occasions, “every time I was selected as a player or captain was a real privilege” he said, adding “I will always remain a passionate England fan.”
It could be said that he was a victim of his own success in some respects because his international career did not fully live up to its early promise or potential. At times, that was down to his own over eagerness to impress or possibly down to others he was playing alongside, who may have matched him in terms of ability but not always in attitude or desire.
Is now the right time?
Is he retiring at the right time? Yes, from a personal perspective. Although Gareth Southgate would have picked him in the current squad, there was no guarantee he would feature in next year’s World Cup. Sitting on the bench at this age would have frustrated and perhaps infuriated Rooney.
Moreover, there are other younger players coming through in his position, including Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford and Dele Alli, who all deserve a chance. Another reason is that he has just moved to a new club in Everton, for whom he has started well and looks like being a key player. Everton will surely benefit from his international retirement.
On the other hand, it is perhaps not the best time from Gareth Southgate and England’s perspective because they could have done with Rooney’s presence in the dressing room and he would surely have been an asset in the squad for next year’s World Cup in Russia.
It is disappointing that he never won a major tournament and that he was not able to produce in the major tournaments with the exception of Euro 2004, but he still had a very good England career. He certainly made a mark in the international game and will be extremely difficult to replace.
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