It is commonly agreed that two players have single-handedly (and I use the word loosely) taken their teams to World cup glory, Garrincha for Brazil in Chile, 1962 and Diego Maradona in Mexico, 1986. If 44 years of hurt for England is to end in South Africa, then one man needs to do the same, that man is Wayne Rooney.
Now when I say single-handedly, I’m not calling the Brazilian side of 1962 or the Argentina one in 1986 as one-man teams, the same is said for this current England side. But what both winning sides had was a genius amongst their ranks, so does England’s 2010 side.
Brazil were dealt a heavy blow when Pelé, who just four years prior aged 18 took the world by storm helping Brazil lift their first of a record five world crowns, was ruled out of the tournament due to an injury sustained against Czechoslovakia. Up until that point, he had formed a deadly double-act with Manuel Francisco dos Santos, better known as Garrincha.
Described by the British press as: “Stanley Matthews, Tom Finney and a snake charmer all rolled into one,” Garrincha played for both himself and Pelé, blessed with phenomenal dribbling ability, he left opponents for dead as he guided Brazil in defending their crown, the only side to do so in world cup history.
Maradona like Garrincha was blessed with similar immortal footballing characteristics; the Chilean newspapers in 62’ asked the question: ‘What planet is Garrincha from?’ Maradona earned a similar nickname from a similar question in Mexico, 86’.
It was just after he scored, completing that mesmerising run against England in the quarterfinals so soon after his ‘hand of god’ (or mano de dios), commentator Víctor Hugo Morales, describing the unfolding moments, couldn’t contain his excitement, he shouted: “barrilete cósmico… ¿de qué planeta viniste?”, loosely translated as: ‘cosmic kite, what planet are you from!’, he then got the nickname of Barrilete Cósmico, which many Argentinean fans still refer to him to this day.
Like Garrincha, Maradona was an once-in-a-lifetime player and the same could be said of Rooney.
Rooney has come on leaps and bound, since bursting on the scene with that famous goal against Arsenal at Goodison Park in 2002, his latest season being his best domestically showed what a world class player he’s become.
He also finished as top scorer for England in their World cup qualifying group plus joint second with Bosnian Edin Džeko and one short behind the overall top-scorer Theofanis Gekas of Greece in the European section. Rooney, given his age, is on course to match or even break the legendary tally of Sir Bobby Charlton for England.
He will of course have plenty of support from equally gifted players in the World cup in the shape of Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, compared to Garrincha who had Didi and Vava whilst Maradona was helped out by Jorge Valdano and Jorge Burruchaga.
But there’s no denying Rooney is just that little bit more special in this England team, Fabio Capello described him in his own way as a player who can wake up the rest of the team if things are not going to plan.
This will be his third tournament for England, with the previous two ending in personal disappointments as well as for his team.
A sending off in the quarter finals to Portugal in Germany, 2006 succeeded a broken foot sustained in Euro 2004 in Portugal, another quarterfinal exit to Portugal. On both occasions England losing on the dreaded penalties.
It was after that tournament in 2004, he made his big money move to Manchester United from Everton. His impact couldn’t have been any bigger, a debut hat-trick in the Champions League against Fenerbahçe.
Since then his after developing his game even more, he’s helped Manchester United return to the summit of English football bagging a European Cup along the way, but at times in a more of a sacrificial role for his side, especially in Europe.
Rooney’s exploits last season, grabbed the attention of two of the players he’ll be vying for as the number one player in the world.
Lionel Messi, who in the past, described Rooney as one of his favourite players to watch and one he would like to play alongside, commended Rooney on his performances during last season:
“He has become the striker who can do it all. He leads the line, he moves wide, comes deep, his heading ability seems to have improved so much and he is so strong when he plays with his back to goal.
“Rooney’s energy is amazing also and I give him all the credit for becoming a world class player,”
His international manager is also known to be a fan as well.
His former teammate, Cristiano Ronaldo, who left Old Trafford for the Bernabéu in a record £80m move, when asked what he thought of Rooney’s season replied simply by saying it was no surprise to him, knowing what a truly world class player and winner he is.
And it is this word, ‘world class’, which often gets banded about at times inappropriately. Rooney like Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, are genuine world class players – not only would they not look out of place in any of the top sides in Europe, but they’re a select few, count them on one hand, that can really decide games, the big ones that is.
Ask José Mourinho or Pep Guardiola if they would like Wayne Rooney in their side, you may just find them answering the same, and that is yes.
But for now and the foreseeable future, he’s staying put at Old Trafford, with incentives such as chasing Ryan Giggs’all-time club appearance record and Sir Bobby Charlton’s goal scoring one.
One criticism, that I have alluded to, that he gets levelled at him, is because of his desire and eagerness to play, he’s more willing to sacrifice himself for the team by playing in a more restricted role, something Sir Alex has (sort of) regretfully pointed too.
It then comes as no surprise that his best goal-scoring season is due to him playing in a more ‘selfish’ lone-forward role, being the goal-poacher.
Despite this many of his traits still remain, notably the ability to grab a game by the scruff of the neck.
It is this, England needs to channel, if they are to be successful. I often have been sceptical about England playing a 442, especially when we have now seen Rooney having the discipline and knowhow to lead a line, especially with a player of Gerrard’s quality who can easily play off him.
Even if Capello goes with a 442, the story will be the same, Rooney needs to not only be on his A game, but guide England – he won’t do it alone, but with a special one-in-a-lifetime player in the English ranks, he can do what Maradona and Garrincha have done so before him.
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Written By Mohammed Moallim