Join the debate
Ahead of the FIFA World Cup, there is an ongoing debate about who is the greatest player in the world. Argentina’s Messi is among the most nominated. There are also those who support the tastes of the Portuguese Christiano Ronaldo. Recently, Manchester City and Argentina striker Carlos Tevez and Rooney’s former Man United teammate caused a stir when he said Rooney was the best he has ever played against or alongside. In fact, Tevez has categorically said Rooney is better than his Argentina teammate Messi as well as Portugal star striker Christiano Ronaldo.
At 25, Rooney has more than a hundred Premier League appearances and over 50 caps in England. When he showed up for Everton, against Arsenal, in his first Premier League appearance, Rooney set a record – since broken – as the youngest to play in the EPL. His goal scored in that game against defending champions Arsenal ended Arsenal’s 30-game unbeaten streak. It also made Rooney the youngest player to score a goal in the EPL (that record has since been broken as well).
Rooney became the youngest player to win a cap in England – another record, since erased – when he played in a friendly against Australia, in 2003. He became the youngest English player to score a goal international, at Euro 2004. Rooney announced his arrival in the tournament, with a sensational performance that ended, tragically, in the quarter-finals against Portugal, when he was injured and was forced to leave the ground.
Open a track
Rooney has spent eight years in football and has eight trophies to mark his presence in the football arena, including 3 Premier League titles and one each in the UEFA Champions League, Community Shield and Champions Cup. The icing on the cake was the first FIFA Club World Cup in 2008.
He is not short of mentions and has won countless individual awards, crowned with the 2010 PFA Player of the Year award given to him in April 2010.
Ability to score goals
Statistics often don’t tell the whole truth, but they usually give a general indication of any trend that exists. In Rooney’s case, the trend, if you can call it that, has been overwhelming. More than 145 goals, out of around 360 appearances in club football, indicate a prolific ability to score goals. Rooney’s strike rate only improved at the Internationals, where his 55 England caps (as in January 2010) resulted in 25 goals.
Comparison with other Star Strikers
At the start of this article, I spoke of Messi and Christiano Ronaldo as being preferred over Rooney, by many, as the best player in the world. How does Rooney’s goal compare to that of these forwards? In January 2010, Rooney had 25 goals out of 55 internationals. Messi has 13 goals in 41 matches; Christiano Ronaldo has 22 out of 67. Further, the Brazilian Kaka has 26 out of 73, and the Spaniard Xavi (Player of the tournament at Euro 2008) has 8 out of 82 caps. Spaniard Fernando Torres, only a year older than Rooney, and who, like the English striker, has represented his country since 2003, has 23 out of 71.
Threat of injury
Injury was the bane of Rooney during the Euro 2004 and FIFA World Cup 2006 campaigns. Coincidentally, both campaigns ended in the quarter-finals, against the same team, Portugal, and by shots on goal. While Rooney was injured in the quarter-final of Euro 2004, during the 2006 FIFA World Cup, he entered the tournament with an injury, and England team management installed a special oxygen tent to help Rooney recover in time for the action. Earlier, in March of this year, Rooney twisted his ankle during the EPL. He was back in action a few weeks later in the Champions League, where the injury returned. All English fans will be praying for Rooney’s fitness at this year’s FIFA World Cup.
A player alone cannot achieve victory. Where his rivals scored against Rooney was in the quality of support they got from other players, in their respective teams. For example, Xavi owes much of his success at Euro 2008 to the support he got from his team-mates, Torres and Villa.
Rooney’s effectiveness at the 2010 FIFA World Cup will depend to a large extent on how well he is supported on the pitch by players like Gerrard, Crouch and Defoe.
Rooney has been in impressive form throughout the current season. His 34 goals in 44 appearances for Man U tell their own story. Gary Lineker, himself an accomplished former England striker himself, says England can’t win without Rooney. Alan Shearer, another former England striker, recommends a 4-5-1 formation, with Rooney leading the attack, alone, a strategy Lineker also endorses.
For England to shine at this World Cup, they need to treat Rooney like the gem that he is – with extreme care. On Rooney’s side, he must keep the lead and not fall prey to the provocations on the field of his rivals, as he so infamously did, in the 2006 World Cup quarter-final, against Portugal.
Who is the best in the world?
Chelsea boss Ancellotti will not tolerate any argument. Rooney is the best, he says. This, coming from a man who was Rooney’s genie recipient in the EPL, is a telling endorsement.
Source by Suresh Iyer