Well played Wayne Rooney.
It’s at least a couple of years too late, but realising you’re way off international level these days is a gift to your country.
Two goals in the first two Premier League matches of the season for Everton, the second of them in front of England boss Gareth Southgate, had bored football writers speculating a call-up to face the full might of Malta was on the cards.
And according to Rooney’s retirement statement Southgate was indeed considering such a ridiculous decision.
Have we really not got 24 players capable of reaching the next World Cup from the easiest qualifying group in history without including past-it players who rarely starred on the biggest of stages even in the days when they were capable of breaking out of a ponderous trot?
I’d never question Rooney’s passion for his country, but that should be automatic for any professional sportsman.
But I will argue against anyone claiming Rooney was ever anywhere near world class.
He might be England’s top scorer, but there are so many qualification matches against pathetic nations these days, such records are naturally tainted. After scoring against Uruguay in a (dismal) World Cup campaign in 2014 his last 13 England goals were scored against Norway, San Marino, Estonia, Slovenia, Scotland, Scotland, Lithuania, Slovenia, San Marino, Switzerland, France, Australia and Iceland.
Apart from France, it’s hardly a roll of honour. Even the French goal arrived in a home friendly. He broke the record with a penalty.
Even at his peak Rooney struggled to make his mark in major championships, even though he was a star part of his country’s so-called golden generation.
And don’t blame his team-mates. Cristiano Ronaldo carried a pretty ordinary Portugal side to the final of the last Euros so truly great players can make a huge difference to an otherwise average squad.
I never understand the need for professional sportsmen to announce their retirement from international competition anyway. Usually that decision has been taken out of their hands by a coach/manager which makes Southgate’s apparent u-turn towards Rooney rather worrying.
It grabs an ageing warrior with a big ego a few extra headlines I guess, but Rooney is as relevant to England’s future as David Beckham, another passionate patriot not quite capable of competing on equal terms against the top players and teams.
I applaud Everton’s willingness to play young English talents in their team and I hope they can continue to do Rooney’s running for him this season, but I suspect they and their most famous player will fizzle out before too long.
Manchester United won’t.Top coach Jose Mourinho realised Rooney was a dead weight likely to restrict a team gunning for the Premier League title. He got rid and United will flourish as a result.