Another game another chance to bash Wayne Rooney. Small pockets of England fans booed the record goal scorer against Malta on Saturday evening. It wasn’t so long ago that press and pundits were lauding Wayne Rooney’s sideways pings. That was until England (not Rooney) underperformed at the Euros, and Jose Mourinho rightfully explained that Rooney’s long range passing has in fact been rubbish.
Rather than add to the abundance of articles on Rooney’s demise, we’ve decided to suggest a solution to his problem. Rooney is transitioning from a Roy of the Rovers driving force, to a more removed elder statesman. The problem is that he is taking inspiration from Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs. He needs to look further afield for a role model, and we think we’ve found just the man.
Giggs and Scholes aren’t the most helpful points of comparison because they were highly intelligent footballers. Paul Sholes was always a genius midfielder, he simply dropped deeper to pull the strings in the twilight of his career. Rooney has never been a genius. He has run games by sheer force rather than intricate link up play.
The other issue with comparing yourself to these two is that neither player was under such microscopic inspection during their careers. Ryan Giggs re-emerged as a centre midfielder after a few years on the peripheries. He was afforded the luxury of transforming his game under the cover of darkness. Every move Rooney makes is dissected by the football storytellers, he doesn’t stand a chance.
So who should Rooney look to during this rocky period? Well let’s think about his skill set. He scores goals, he used to terrorize defences with pace and power, and he will run himself into the ground for the team. The solution is simple and it goes by the name of Fernando Torres.
El Nino had to reinvent himself under a huge price tag and intense scrutiny. Like Rooney, Torres struggled to come to terms with losing that devastating power. Fernando was never a genius either; he didn’t have to be.
A few years ago he looked destined to see out his remaining days as a shell of the man he once was. Sound familiar? But Torres had something that you don’t lose with age, a big game mentality. While his goal per game record became less prolific he still managed to pop up when it mattered most. A goal in the Champions league semi final, and more big goals against Barca since his return to Athletico have proven there is life in the old dog yet.
Torres has managed to pull himself from the depths of despair to become an important part of Diego Simeone’s war like machine. Rather than being the main man, he has adjusted to a supporting role that allows Greizmann to prosper.
Wayne Rooney may not have the pace he once possessed, but his hunger to succeed is clearly still alive and well. You can see it in the comments he makes on an almost daily basis. But now is time for action. Fernando Torres didn’t think, ‘I’ve lost my pace so I better become a holding midfielder’. That would’ve been horrendous.
Rooney has always been a striker, and he should remain one. His performance against Malta once again demonstrated that he doesn’t have the awareness to spot the clever runs of Deli Ali or Jesse Lingard. But when he got a shot off he looked more convincing than anyone else of the pitch. Torres is proof that it is possible. He should take inspiration from that little miracle.