It has been claimed, on numerous occasions, that Wayne
Rooney is “World Class” – is he really, or are we simply using the term too
Lionel Messi is, undoubtedly, “World Class.” Cristiano
Ronaldo is “World Class.” These men have several things in common; both are at
the top of their game right now. Both men routinely tear opposing teams apart
almost single-handedly. These two players are feared the world over and in
constant competition for every footballing accolade for which they qualify.
Now take a look at Rooney. Top of his game? Not even close.
Tearing opposition teams apart? Never. Awards? You’re joking, right? The fact
of the matter is, I don’t remember the last time I saw a review of a Wayne
Rooney performance that described him as being so much as ‘effective,’ much
less one indicating that he remains among the game’s transcendent elite. His
own manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, has lost so much faith in the former golden boy
that he was reduced to a cameo appearance from the substitutes bench in a
must-win top-tier European tie.
It’s not uncommon for his performances to fail to impress
entirely; he’s gone through more than one prolonged dry spell and been made to
look average even by some of the weaker teams in the Premier League. At
international level, he’s spent the last few years being outshone by truly
outstanding emerging youngsters such as Wilshere, Cleverly and Walcott. I fear
that much of the remaining mythos that surrounds the Liverpudlian is residual:
the England and Manchester United fans want to believe that this is a player that
still has the ability to fulfill the immense potential he displayed as a
teenager at Everton.
Unfortunately, Rooney is now 27 years old. His peak,
theoretically, is around the corner which means – in short – that if he’s not
world class by now, he never will be.
I’m fully prepared to accept any controversy this may stir
up; I know he has a legion of fans willing to stand up for him until the oceans
run dry. The mark of a “World Class” player, above all else, is measured in their
ability to elicit a sense of awe from those who watch them, and fear from those
playing against them. Maradona had these things. So did Cruyff. Messi and
Ronaldo do, too. Nobody fears Wayne Rooney, and nobody watches him in wide-eyed
wonder anymore. Thirty years from now, we won’t be talking about him as one of
the greatest of all-time. We’ll barely give him a cursory mention as one of the
best of his era. He’s merely a good-to-great player whose reputation for hard
work has masked a litany of shortcomings.
If he leaves Manchester United, I don’t get any sense that
anyone outside of the Old Trafford faithful will feel it a great loss. What
does shock me, however, is the calibre of the teams being linked with his
signature: Man City. Chelsea. PSG. Are these teams really willing to spend £25-35m
on a player who has never come close to fulfilling his potential?
Sadly, they probably are; if it weren’t for his reputation,
he’d probably be the next player on the plane to Anzhi, but people will still
pay through the nose to have him in their line-ups. For any of the teams he’s
been linked to, however, I dare say they’ll find him to be little more than a
Let’s look at the options: He’s too tough for the Spanish
League, and would probably see a lot of cards there. He’s too delicate for the
Italian League, he’s too skillful for the French League and he’s not prolific
enough for the Premier League.
In the end, Rooney will probably end up staying a United. If
he does leave, however, he’s going to struggle. You can’t guarantee that any of
the English clubs will take a gamble because he’s not a proven performer
anymore. And why would you want to leave Old Trafford in his position? You don’t
have Giggs, Carrick, Nani and van Persie to carry you anywhere else, after all.