Wayne Rooney and England: Where did it go wrong?
Wayne Rooney came out of retirement to play his final match for England at Wembley on Thursday. He had announced his desire to quit international football in 2017 and last played for the Three Lions in November 2016. This time it was to promote his newly-founded charity the Wayne Rooney Foundation International.
Rooney has been a misunderstood England star. Although he enjoyed a stellar career with Manchester United, he has never been the fan favourite when turning up for his country nor has his performance backed these claims. Although he is the second-most capped player for England behind Peter Shilton with 120 appearances, the man from Merseyside is far from being considered an England hero.
His farewell match played on Thursday was the last time the fans saw him in the England kit and although there is a feeling that there won't be too many like him, the general consensus is that Wayne Rooney and England's was a love story that never quite materialised.
The statistics, however, do not back our claim. Rooney is England's leading goalscorer, having netted an impressive 53 times in 120 appearances. His record speaks for his talent and yet he is not called as a modern-day England hero. For all the fanfare, glitz and an astronomical career with Manchester United, where he was accorded legendary status, Wayne Rooney and England were somehow not made for each other.
From becoming the youngest player to play for England to the red-card against Ricardo Carvalho in the 2006 World Cup, Rooney had a glittering start to his international career.
So where did it all go wrong?
Perhaps the ill-feeling of the average England fan started with the 2010 World Cup, where number 10 Rooney went goalless. In times of high pressure and equally galactic expectations, Rooney had tanked. The 2012 Euros marked increased pressure on Rooney where he scored one goal in the two matches he played but was criticised incessantly for his lack of domination in the attacking third. Manager Fabio Capello went as far as to say that Rooney played well only in Manchester.
He finally managed to score his first goal in a World Cup finals in 2014 against Uruguay but poor performances from him in other games along with most of his teammates saw England getting knocked out in the group stage itself. Pundits and football experts, once again, tore into Rooney.
Rooney was named England captain in 2014 but was somehow always seemed to fail when the going got tough. He scored England's only goal in their tragic 2-1 loss to Iceland in the 2016 Euros, which saw them get knocked out. No matter how well he played in friendlies and qualifiers, Wayne Rooney was never at his best when playing international tournaments.
Rooney's was a career which saw him rise as a mammoth in club football and get reduced to a foot soldier in internationals. His is also a classic case of why statistics often do not tell the whole story. Rooney may be England's leading goalscorer, but by no means their most influential or even the best centre-forward to play for the country.
For all his exploits in Old Trafford and Goodison Park, due to an inability to switch on when it got tough, Wayne Rooney will never be called as an England legend.