England’s poor performance has led to criticism of their tactics and personnel. However, generally speaking Rooney has always escaped criticism from England fans, but is this fair? Wayne Rooney is widely considered to be England’s best player, but is he anywhere near as good as other talismanic players such as Ronaldo or Messi?
In the league last season Rooney scored 27 goals in 34 appearances making him the 6th top scorer in Europe. Below is a statistical comparison of Rooney and other European forwards.
Based on this table Rooney is essentially joint 8th in terms of goals contributed with 31. Nene and Hazard did it in France which is in fairness an ‘easier’ league than the Premier League and thus shouldn’t be regarded as impressively as Rooney’s 31 goal contribution. However his contribution is dwarfed by the two best players in the World who contributed 58 and 66 goals, it is thus fair to say that Ronaldo and Messi are in a different league to Rooney. Especially if we consider that neither of these players play primarily as centre forwards, although Rooney too drops deep but is the focal point of most United attacks. RVP and Aguero also both contributed more than Rooney this season, Van Persie, making him arguably the third best forward in the EPL last season. Can a player who was the third best forward in the league be regarded as a world class player?
Undoubtedly his contribution was very good and nobody can deny that but it is not that of one of the best players in the World. Rooney’s form has also been somewhat patchy and his 27 goals are masked by a few hat-tricks and long spells without goals. Rooney at one point this season had only scored 3 goals in 14 games including an 8 game drought, which coincided with United dropping out of the Champions League. This season was actually only the second time Rooney has hit 20 goals or more in the Premier League. Eto’o hit plus 20 on 5 occasions in his career. His club record is still about 1 in 2 but this does demonstrate how we perhaps do over rate him in the media.
Rooney plays a slightly different role to the other forwards and averaged 50 passes per game which demonstrates what a huge impact he has on United games. RVP for example has about half the number of passes. United fans will argue that we have not seen the best of him due to him needing to fill in midfield; however this remains to be seen. His goal tally is very good but as stated nowhere near Ronaldo and Messi who are truly World Class. Ibrahimovic, who the media often slate in the UK, contributed more goals than Rooney and also gets involved in the midfield with 46.4 passes per game and more assists than Rooney, which defies the view that Rooney lacks goals because of his ‘all round game’ all forwards are ‘all round’ nowadays, except the few poachers we see such as Gomez or Giroud.
Rooney covers a lot of ground, dropping deep as noted, but he is still United’s main striker and thus the focal point of attacks. Rooney’s form for England has not been brilliant with him tending to score most of his goals in friendlies against ‘weak’ opposition. His performances at the Euro’s were disappointing, as was his form at the World Cup in 2010; in fact his England peak was probably at Euro 2004. His record of 29 goals in 75 games is not prolific. David Villa for example has 51 goals in 82, albeit in a better side. Rooney didn’t score at World Cup 2010 or 2006 and only totalled 5 goals at International tournaments which include 4 in 2004. Ibrahimovic’s record is similar at international level with 33 goals in 80 games for Sweden, who are a worse ranked side than England. He has scored 6 at major tournaments but crucially 4 goals in the spell Rooney has just one goal. Yet Ibrahimovic is widely criticized and not held in the same regard by the press or fans.
If we look at his record in the Champions League it is also interesting. He has 25 goals in 66 games which is pretty good but Karim Benzema has 25 in just 41 appearances. Rooney ranks 21st out of the top European goalscorers in terms of goals to game ratio. It should be noted that this is good but it is not the form of a World class player, Drogba, Mario Gomez, Del Piero, Benzema, Messi and Ronaldo are a few of the players above him in this regard.
To reiterate Rooney is a very good player, however having assessed his statistics it’s wrong to put him in the same category as Ronaldo or Messi, or even David Villa. His international record is telling and although many players in that generation struggled on the international stage the fact that he has not scored at a World Cup and only has 1 goal in an international tournament since 2004 is quite worrying. He was labelled the great hope of English football but he has arguably benefited from other players such as Lampard being scapegoated which has deflected attention from himself.
Clearly his 27 goal tally is impressive and with Kagawa behind him next season it will be interesting to see whether we see a new side of Rooney. Perhaps though he is to hastily regarded as one of the best players in the World. He is probably more accurately in the sort of second tier of footballers behind the likes of Xavi, Iniesta, Messi and Ronaldo who are in a class of their own. As the 8th top goals contributor in Europe he cannot be regarded as World class as that tag should be reserved for only two or three forwards, not eight.