Wayne Rooney appears to be in the early stages of a career renaissance after leaving Manchester United for Everton this summer, so it’s a little odd that he’d pick this time to announce that he has declined a call-up with the England team and instead has decided to officially retire from international play.
In a statement released on his personal website, Rooney said England manager Gareth Southgate called him recently to let the striker know he planned on bringing Rooney back into the national team fold for the upcoming international matches. Rooney hadn’t appeared in any internationals in 2017, most likely due to the limited playing time he received at United last season, but his regular presence and strong performances with Everton in the first few matches of this season earned him a spot back in the England squad.
Rather than accept these caps, however, Rooney declined and told the manager that he planned on retiring. Here’s a snippet of his statement:
Playing for England has always been special to me. Every time I was selected as a player or captain was a real privilege and I thank everyone who helped
me. But I believe now is the time to bow out.
Leaving Manchester United was a tough call but I know I made the right decision in coming home to Everton. Now I want to focus all my energies on helping them be successful.
I will always remain a passionate England fan. One of my very few regrets is not to have been part of a successful England tournament side. Hopefully the exciting players Gareth is bringing through can take that ambition further and I hope everyone will get behind the team.
Despite being England’s all-time leading goalscorer, their second-most capped player, and United’s all-time leading scorer as well, Rooney is somehow still a little underrated. He was a constant presence in what was one of the most dominant club teams of all time during his peak years under Alex Ferguson at United, and his versatility and nose for goal and creative gifts allowed him to thrive in all sorts of roles and positions, which played a huge part in United’s success.
For England he has been great as well. Even though he takes too much criticism for the nation’s relative lack of big tournament success, he should be remembered more for what he was able to do in an England shirt than the team’s larger failings which weren’t really under his control. After all, you don’t become England’s leading scorer by accident. And had he wanted to, he almost certainly could’ve cobbled together the seven additional international caps needed for him to claim the record for most England appearances, as well. Rooney is an England, Manchester United, and Premier League legend, and hopefully he will be remembered as such.
Not that he’s done with the game entirely, of course. Stepping back from international play is probably a smart move for him at this stage of his career. While only 31 years old, Rooney has a lot more mileage on those legs of his than many his age, owing to just how young he was when he broke out. (He was an EPL regular at the tender age of 16. And people think Kylian Mbappé is precocious.) Conserving his energy for league play is probably a wise move, and if the recharged Rooney we’ve seen so far this season (Rooney already has two league goals in two league matches) is any indication, we’ll be treated to many more moments of his genius in the years to come, even if they don’t come in an England shirt.