Sidelined at Manchester United, it’s clear the future for Wayne Rooney is not at Old Trafford. Should his rumoured return to Goodison Park come to fruition, how would his arrival impact the team?
A talismanic figure, the England captain would undoubtedly have a positive footballing and commercial impact on any side he joins. And it’s often easy to forget that, while his powers may have waned in recent seasons, he is still only 31.
With most betting sites having him pegged to join Everton at the end of the season, many Toffees fans are wondering what to expect from a player who left the club 13 years ago.
After a poorly received switch to a ‘quarter-back’ midfield role for England during last summer’s disastrous European Championships campaign, his season has failed to ignite at Man Utd.
Seemingly unwanted by new manager Jose Mourinho, it seems Rooney’s desire to adopt a deeper playmaker role more suited to other players at the club, combined with the emergence of Marcus Rashford and signing of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, have left him caught between two stools.
His dalliance with a change of position has only highlighted his waning powers in recent years. As a forward, your primary responsibility is to score and make goals, something Rooney is struggling to do.
Just three goals in the Premier League this season tells the story of a player who is no longer the goal threat he once was. You’ve got to go back to the 2011-12 season to find the last time he hit over 20 goals in a season. He hit the same milestone in the 2009-10 campaign, but has failed to hit the same heights in the following five.
Of course, goals have never been the only measure of success for a player who also creates opportunities for his team mates. His assist tally hit a high point of 13 in the 2007-08 Premier League season, but has not reached double figures in the last three.
Stats alone don’t tell the story, but even a layman can see Rooney now labours on the pitch in a way he never used to.
But of more interest to Everton fans is how he would fit into the well-drilled and resourceful side Ronald Koeman has shaped. It seems unlikely the arrival of such a stellar signing would not have some impact on other players, but who would make way for him in the team?
At this stage of his career, any comparison with Romelu Lukaku is simply unfair on Rooney — he doesn’t hold a candle to the big Belgian in front of goal.
A more telling comparison, considering Rooney’s drop in pace and preference to being used as withdrawn forward or midfielder, is with Ross Barkley.
Both Rooney and Barkley were given opportunities to shine at a young age by Everton. And while Rooney chose to move on to Man Utd, Barkley is still plying his trade at Goodison Park.
Barkley’s detractors describe him as inconsistent, but a quick look at his performances last season in the Premier League show that his output was in-line with Rooney’s.
Unless, as recent rumours suggest, Barkley is to leave Everton this summer, there is real danger that the arrival of Rooney could overshadow him and reduce his opportunities within the side.
The return of ‘Wazza’ to his spiritual home could be a blessing or a curse. No doubt Rooney’s spirit and desire for the game is undiluted. But while his footballing mind may be willing, his body is may be less so.
For a player whose game up to this point has been built on tenacity, it is hard to see how he can adapt his game in the twilight years of his career.
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