As this animated GIF wonderfully illustrates, even at 16 years of age Wayne Rooney was capable of producing moments of football magic. This last-minute winner for Everton against Arsenal in October 2002 heralded his arrival to the mass footballing consciousness.
After the game Arsene Wenger hailed Rooney as the “biggest England talent I’ve seen since I arrived in England. There has certainly not been a player under 20 as good as him since I became a manager here”.
Two years later and an 18-year-old Rooney was playing for Manchester United after a £25.6m transfer from Goodsion Park. During his time at Old Trafford he has won four Premier League titles, a Champions League, three FA Cups, two League Cups and how could we forget about the World Club Cup? Ahem.
On a personal front he has won two PFA Young Player of the Year awards (2004-2005, 2005-2006) and a full PFA Players’ Player of the Year award (2009-2010). Rooney’s goals per-game record with United is 182 goals in 377 games. That’s close to a goal every other game.
There’s no doubt he is a top class player but can he be ranked amongst the absolute best? Is he as good as Messi or Ronaldo? Or even Xavi and Iniesta?
Just twice in eight full seasons at Old Trafford has Wayne Rooney scored more than 20 Premier League league goals. He perennially goes through extended spells of poor form where he looks as though he’d struggle to get in to the current Ireland team.
At his best Wayne Rooney is near incomparable in the Premier League but is his lack of consistency keeping him from fulfilling his full potential?