What will Wayne Rooney’s legacy look like when he finally hangs up his boots (or more likely takes the Chinese cash this summer)?
It’s not an easy question to answer.
The reality is that Rooney’s career has very much been one of two halves.
Bursting onto the scene at Everton as a teenager, he was mesmerising. He took players on. He scored ludicrous long-range goals. He struck fear into the hearts of defenders.
He had something that no English player since Paul Gascoigne had – sublime skill and a complete lack of fear.
But he hasn’t always continued on in that vein. For the last six or seven years, opinion on the Manchester United striker has been divided.
On the one hand, he’s continued to score goals. Not necessarily as many as in the early part of his career, but goals nonetheless.
On the other, he’s become less and less effective and dynamic as the years have gone on. I can’t remember the last time I saw him ghost past someone, or rifle a goal in from 25 yards.
And when he’s bad, he’s really bad. Inability to control the ball and shanking the ball out of play have long been a key feature of Rooney’s game when things aren’t going his way.
But with all this said, Saturday’s game with Reading saw Rooney equal Sir Bobby Charlton’s Manchester United goalscoring record, netting his 249th goal for the club.
249 goals. All from a player who occasionally performs so poorly that he doesn’t even look like a footballer.
— Wayne Rooney (@WayneRooney) January 7, 2017
So that’s my question: how will Rooney be looked at when he retires? As the swashbuckling superstar striker who overtook Bobby Charlton’s goalscoring record? Or the bumbling player who lost yards of place and fizzled out whilst earning £300,000 a week?
I’m no fan of Rooney, but I think I’d prefer the former. In his pomp, he was one of the best players I have ever seen, and importantly, he was the last English player I’ve seen who was actually happy to take players on and attempt to go around them.
The last English player who didn’t have the fear.
The veteran of 119 internationals may have regressed significantly, but in that magical period between 2003 and 2009, Rooney was one of the best footballers in the world and should be recognised for it – regardless of his more recent struggles.