Wayne Mark Rooney, a figure that has been in the public eye since 2002. Before he even played a single game for Everton, the now 26 year old Liverpudlian was touted to be the next big thing. Of course, these days, a 12-year old kid who can juggle the ball for 5 minutes is considered to be the next Maradona and there is always an endless list of players who are supposed to be ‘the next big thing’. However, there’s a difference between these players and Rooney because the current holder of Manchester United‘s No. 10 shirt made it and made it big. He may be the most recognised player in his team and possibly the most marketable player in all of England, but really, how good is Wayne Rooney?
In his first season with Everton he scored 6 goals in the Premier League, which was a more than decent return for an 18 year old plying his trade in what quite possibly was and still is, the most challenging and competitive league in the world. Fans and pundits alike were quick to shower praise on him for his clinical finishing ability, tremendous work rate, his raw power, but most importantly, his burning desire to compete and to win, which was clearly visible in the way he played his football. Being an Englishman, the media circus around him was even more frantic and he was quickly being seen as England’s best hope for a positive result in the 2004 European Championships.
The young Englishman not only managed to live up to the colossal expectations, but somehow exceed the expectations of an entire nation as he took the tournament by storm, scoring 4 goals. Although England crashed out in the quarter-finals to Portugal, Wayne Rooney had completed his transformation from a promising teenager to an international star. Sir Alex Ferguson pounced and managed to snatch him from Everton for a massive amount of 25 million pounds, which was, at that time, the highest transfer fee paid for a teenager.
SAF is known to have an eye for youngsters and in the years since, Wayne Rooney has more than repaid Manchester United for the money they spent on him, and has won countless trophies for his club. So, broadly speaking, Rooney’s career has been a massive success in the sense that he is one of the few players who managed to live up to their massive potential and sufficiently justify the hype and hoopla that came along with it. But there are some who believe that, whilst being a good player, Rooney has been massively over hyped and is not nearly as talented as people believe him to be.
So now we arrive at the question that is at the heart of this article, is Wayne Rooney an over-hyped star or is he someone whose tales we will recount to our grandchildren, and someone whose name will be etched in the annals of Football history as one of the greats? I believe that, once he hangs up his boots, Rooney will be in the same league as Charlton, Best, Giggs as one of the best players in United’s history, if not the best. His England career has not been as glittering as his club one, but at only 26, he has plenty of time to rectify that and I’m sure he will. Now, all this may sound like wishful thinking, but there are reasons to prove that assigning the title of ‘Great’ to Rooney is quite logical.
Let’s take his game play into account. Sure, he may not have the pace of a Ronaldo or the trickery of a Neymar or the superhero level of ball control that the likes of Messi, Iniesta and Xavi seem to possess. That’s not to say he’s a slouch with no ball control. He may not be the best or the most potent exponent of the above mentioned attributes, but he does posses them in fair amounts. His finishing, from both close and long range, is on par with the best strikers in the world. Now, a forward playing for a top club like Manchester United is expected to have these attributes, but Rooney has in his locker, a set of skills that set him apart from the elite strikers currently operating in world football.
The first of these is his exceptional work rate. He is constantly running around the pitch, whether it is to make himself available to his team mates for a pass or to harass the opposition into losing possession of the ball. It’s not surprising to United fans to see Rooney help his team out defensively plenty of times during the course of a game. His work-rate is enough to rival the best in the business. Another quality that sets Rooney apart from his peers is his fantastic passing range, which is without a doubt, far and above the ability of most strikers. In fact, I dare you to name a striker that can provide a defence-splitting 40 yard pass as good as Rooney can.
During the past season, Rooney made an average of 4.1 successful long passes every game, a statistic that rivals most midfielders and is in fact just a few notches below the likes of Xabi Alonso, widely considered to be one of the best long passers currently playing. His passing ability is so potent, that he can easily switch to playing in central midfield and no one would be able to question the quality of his play.
Rooney encompasses all these abilities in a body of a simmered down Hulk. He may not be the tallest player around, but he’s big and strong and incredibly hard to get off the ball, just ask any Premier League defender. In short, the case to be made here is that, Wayne Rooney quite possibly is, the best all-round player in today’s game. He is certainly not the most gifted player around, but his high work ethic, incredible passing range and phenomenal finishing ability, should easily earn him a spot on any ‘Top 5 players’ list.
Add to that his burgeoning trophy cabinet, that consists of 5 Premier League medals, 2 F.A Cup and League Cup Medals, and a Champions League medal, then suddenly, calling Rooney a future ‘Great’ doesn’t seem so ridiculous. Now, of course I realise words like ‘Great’ and ‘Legend’ are passed around more times than Xavi passes the ball during a single Barcelona game, and I will be the first one to admit that Rooney is not quite there yet, but he has certainly done enough and is sure to do more to at least be taken into consideration.
Even if pure statistics are taken into consideration, there is good case to be made in his favor. Rooney, with 181 goals, lies fourth on United’s all time scoring charts. Sir Bobby Charlton sits comfortably on the summit with a whopping 249 goals scored in a wonderful career. In addition, Rooney has also scored 29 goals for England, and here too, Charlton reigns supreme with 49 goals. It is highly likely and safe to assume that, by the time Rooney is ready to wind up his career, he would have overtaken Sir Bobby on both fronts and in the process becomes the top goalscorer for both club and country, a feat only the very best can boast about.
This season alone, he managed to score 27 goals in the Premier League, a feat that was largely overshadowed by Robin Van Persie‘s admittedly spectacular season. RVP is a quality player and during the past season, he somehow single-handedly carried the team on his shoulders, however, that being said, this really is the first time that Van Persie has produced at this level on a consistent basis, whereas Rooney has been plundering goals for a long time now.
In conclusion, while it might be jumping the gun a bit to call Rooney a legend right now, but there should remain no doubt in anyone’s mind that if he continues playing his football the way he his, and keeps winning trophies the way he is, Wayne Mark Rooney will go down as on the finest players to have ever graced the Premier League and will be seen as a legend in his own right. A time will come when we will be recounting tales to our kids, saying, “Oh Rooney, you lads should have seen him play, he was something special!”
And that’s what Wayne Rooney is – Special.
In every sense of the word.