It’s not my intention to be an idle Rooney-basher. He is undoubtedly a fine player, and has been for many years. Wayne Rooney has scored incredible goals and put in some unbelievable performances. He is one of football’s superstars.
Since he exploded onto the scene at the age of 16 with that belter against Arsenal, he has been a fiery and unpredictable character. Earmarked for greatness from the beginning, he was snapped up by Manchester United in 2004 for around £25 million, and made his mark as a debutant with a hat-trick against Turkish side Fenerbahçe. Since 2004, Rooney’s goal return has been fairly impressive, and his career total boasts not far off a goal every 2 games.
Unfortunately, despite his obvious quality and relative consistency, it seems that Wayne Rooney will never be thought of as one of the greats.
There are a number of reasons for this assessment. It’s easy to run off a list of misdemeanours and claim that they “prove” Rooney is, indeed, a twerp. But you need to look in more detail at the combined impact of these events, and how they have shaped people’s perception of Rooney, his place in the modern game, and ultimately how his career will be judged when he retires.
This article isn’t meant as a condemnation of Rooney as a horrendous human being. Instead, it is an examination of the reasons why Wazza will now never be considered a legend of the game, and what has contributed towards his unpopularity.
He has been involved in a series of inexplicable sendings off, including the stamp on Carvalho in England’s World Cup Quarter-Final, a dismissal for sarcastically clapping the referee, and the kick out against Montenegro in the crucial Euro 2012 Qualifiers last year. Many players have had issues with discipline, so this isn’t particularly unusual. But it has not helped his image in world football and it seems we were always waiting for that divine moment that Rooney finally “matures”.
We’re still waiting.
Despite football fans’ reputation for being somewhat half-witted, I believe that a supporters’ favourite will always be a player who commands respect as a man as well as a footballer. Over the years, Rooney has showed too much pettiness for the fans to be able to fully respect him in either capacity. United fans do undoubtedly like him, but could never fall in love with him the same way they fell in love with Cantona, Keane, or Ferdinand. These players arrived from other clubs and showed good attitude and commitment to their teammates and Manchester United as a club. Eric Cantona and Roy Keane had disciplinary records as bad as (if not worse than) Rooney’s, but they are still considered legends because of their attitude towards the club, the manager, and the fans.
Many footballers are highly self-interested, greedy, and self-conscious. The difference with Rooney is that he shows it quite so explicitly and quite so shamelessly. This is another reason why he will not be remembered as a fully-fledged legend.
His reaction to England fans’ dissatisfaction at a dismal draw with Algeria in the 2010 World Cup is a prime example of his lack of consideration and awareness. England had performed terribly, showing no imagination or creativity against a team they should hammer, with many fans having spent thousands of pounds to watch them in South Africa. Although born out of frustration, it was an ill-advised move which did nothing to endear him to the England supporters.
Other sensational media stories about prostitutes and “grannies” have emerged and been admitted, and are embarrassing for both Rooney and his wife Coleen. We all know the reputation of footballers, and his private life is not what will determine how he is seen in the world of football – but it certainly doesn’t help. Furthermore, his hair implants were ridiculed by many of the “old pros”, and gave the papers some much-welcomed ammunition.
Whilst he did nothing wrong in re-patching his barnet (I’m in no position to ridicule receding hairlines), in doing so he highlighted a weakness in his self-consciousness – and gave people one more reason to remember him other than his footballing ability.
I Want To Leave x 2
The latest shenanigans highlight Rooney’s ultimate lack of maturity, not in that he requested to leave the champions Manchester United, although this in itself is a questionable decision. No, the thing that shows him up this time is the way he has handled the whole process so far. Removing “Manchester United Player” from his Twitter account is just plain infantine, and his lack of shame about donning the kit (à la Terry) to collect the Premier League trophy is bizarre, considering it represents the club he so desperately wishes to desert.
In fairness to Rooney, he is clearly dismayed at being pushed further back into midfield so regularly in the past couple of seasons. He has kept schtum up until now amid continuous media focus on his satisfaction (or lack thereof) with the change of role at Old Trafford. If he considers himself a striker and wants to score more goals, his frustration is understandable.
But considering his impetuous request to leave 2 years ago, you’d have thought he might be a little more careful about how he approached the situation. The concern about “ambition” was addressed with United’s uncharacteristic signing of big-name striker Robin van Persie, who has since proceeded to fire the Red Devils to a 20th league title. Ferguson showed a rare moment of flexibility when he persuaded the board to allow Rooney’s £200k wages in 2011, but he might not be so keen to back up the former Evertonian this time round. Leaving him out of his last game at Old Trafford highlights this. If there was anybody who could have altered Wayne Rooney’s attitude, it would have been Sir Alex Ferguson. Clearly, that didn’t happen.
A Sour Taste in the Mouth
Despite what this article might portray, I don’t hate Rooney. I think he is a very good player, and important for both Manchester United and England. Nor do I believe he’s a particularly nasty man, especially when compared to some of the other vile characters in football (Michael Brown / Pepe / El-Hadji Diouf). However, I do feel it’s a shame that Rooney has adopted an attitude that leaves a sour taste in the mouth, and what promised to be a truly great career has seen so many incidents that will tarnish it beyond repair.
He probably won’t be aware of this idea, and why should he be? He is 27 years old, he’ll eventually hold the record for total England caps, he is a millionaire, and he is revered by many worldwide.
He could have also been one of the great players of this generation.