The annals of history are littered with a wealth of excellent footballers who failed to have the status of ‘great’ bestowed upon them due to their inability to land football’s biggest prize. Footballing canon, and Wayne Rooney it seems, denote that World Cup success is a mandatory requirement of ‘greatness’ – victory upon the world’s biggest stage is what separates Diego Maradona and Pele from the likes of Johan Cruyff and Eusebio. However, Rooney is currently considered to be one of the best footballers in the world. Regardless of whether he manages to lead England to World Cup victory, he is likely to be regarded as one of the finest players ever to don both the England and Manchester United jerseys. Should a failure to secure the Jules Rimet trophy preclude Rooney from entering the pantheon of all-time football greats?
On the back of a tremendous domestic season, in which he scooped both the PFA and FWA Player of the Year accolades, Wayne Rooney stands on the cusp of greatness. With the hopes and dreams of 50 million people resting upon his burly shoulders, Rooney recently stated that “If you want to be known and remembered in world football, I feel you would have to win a World Cup. Obviously there are players like George Best who are geniuses, but personally I feel I have to help England win a World Cup to be considered like that.”
Despite finishing the season with just the Carling Cup to tangibly demonstrate his side’s efforts, Rooney’s transformation from a talented player to a truly undisputed world-class one became apparent during 2009/10. A return of 34 goals from just 42 games emphatically dismissed any doubts over his ability to function as an out and out centre-forward whilst simultaneously helping to banish the spectre of the departed Cristiano Ronaldo. Still only 24 years of age, Rooney has already won three Premier League titles, two League Cups and one Champions League trophy (indeed, the FA Cup is the only major club prize Rooney has yet to win). At international level, Rooney has already racked up 60 caps, notching 25 goals in the process. The anticipated longevity of Rooney’s international career is such that many believe he will trump Sir Bobby Charlton’s record of 49 goals for the English national team.
Since he first came to the attention of the widespread media with THAT goal against Arsenal, Rooney has consistently broken records. Rooney is the national side’s youngest ever goal scorer, as well as their youngest scorer in a European Championship tournament. More recently, the former Everton man recently broke the national’s side record for most goals scored in a World Cup qualifying campaign, having scored nine on the road to South Africa.
Records and statistics fail to indicate exactly how good the Croxteth-born forward is. Rooney is blessed with power, pace, vision and a wonderful eye for goal. Whilst many players are in possession of such attributes, Rooney’s ability to marry such traits with unwavering passion, determination and work-rate is what truly sets him apart from the rest.
Ultimately, the concept of ‘greatness’ is a subjective one, with many traditionalists believing that World Cup success distinguishes the excellent from the truly great. Still to reach the peak of his career, Rooney is primed to ensure that he can be defined as the latter. Will he be able to do so? Only time will tell.
Do you think Rooney needs to win the World Cup in order to achieve greatness?
Follow all things United at www.twitter.com/Manunited_FFC
Follow me on twitter at www.twitter.com/zarifrasul