Why Rooney Can’t Be ‘England’s Suarez’

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With a title like that I could probably just write the words ‘because he’s not good enough,’ and the article would be done with. But I’m thinking specifically, why Wayne Rooney can’t replicate for England what Luis Suarez does for Liverpool and Uruguay.

Rooney recently stated that he wants to link up with Daniel Sturridge the way Suarez does at Liverpool, to make England’s attack as lethal as our SAS duo. That’s not going to happen, and the main reason was blatantly evident in England’s 2-1 loss to Italy on Saturday.

Luis Suarez is a player with an almost ridiculous will to win. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a player so determined to win every single game of football he ever plays. And Suarez will contribute in absolutely any way he can to make that happen. Rooney, on the other hand, is a player with a ridiculous ego problem. This is a player who naturally wants to win as well, but on top of that wants to be the star of the show.

There were times last season when Suarez was asked to play out wide on the left hand side to accommodate Sturridge up front. The Uruguayan handled this as you would imagine; tracking back, running tirelessly, and staying wide to keep the shape of the team.

When asked to do this for England, Wayne Rooney offered no protection at all to Leighton Baines behind him, constantly drifted infield meaning that another player had to go wide to cover for him, and seemed to shoot on sight instead of creating chances for his teammates. Admittedly he did get an assist for England’s goal, so I’ll give him credit for that. But that was an occasion where a sublime pass from Sterling actually found him in his supposed left wing position, and he had no other option but to cross it for Sturridge to tap in.

He also missed an absolute sitter, because he was so determined to strike the ball emphatically and do his best to break the back of the net, that he lost his accuracy. It was like he wanted to demonstrate his frustration by scoring with a belter, instead of staying calm and just picking his spot. He was being played out of position, with rumours of being dropped entirely, and still had the burden of not a single World Cup goal to his name. If he was in it for the team, he would have done the sensible thing and stroked the ball into the back of the net. But he wanted it to be the Rooney show; he wanted to prove his point. But he blew it.

From then on he was shooting left, right, and centre when teammates were in better positions. And when the full time whistle blew, he’d been far and away the worst player on the pitch. For a player capable of such brilliance, his mentality let him down. Now say what you want about Luis Suarez, but he does what he does to win games. He’s always willing to take one for the team. His goals and all-round play is a by-product of his hard work and determination. And this is the man who also had the second most assists in the league last season; the words greedy or selfish aren’t in his vocabulary.

As a final demonstration of how the two differ, I offer a Wayne Rooney moment that still irks me to this day. Ironically it came directly after probably the finest moment of his career. No one can deny the quality of the overhead kick he scored against Man City in the 2010-11 season. But his celebration afterwards is what sums the man up for me. He ran away from his teammates and then quickly turned around, spread his arms out, and tilted his head back. ‘Praise me!’ he might as well have screamed. He wanted to be on a pedestal with everyone kneeling down in front of him. This was after he’d scored the winning goal to claim all three points, where a tap-in would have done the same job. But his mind wasn’t on what the goal meant for the team, he was thinking about what it meant for him.

And it did cement his status as one of football’s biggest stars. But boy is he paying for it now. He wanted all eyes on him, and now that’s exactly what he’s got. Whereas Luis Suarez thrives in being his country’s talisman, Wayne Rooney needs a team built around him to excel. But to get that now, he’d need to either displace man of the match against Italy, Raheem Sterling, or goal scorer Daniel Sturridge. I don’t think even Roy Hodgson could find a logic behind making that change.

If Rooney desperately wants to swap positions with someone for England’s upcoming game against Uruguay, I’d suggest the best candidate would be Adam Lallana.

By James Nelson (@_James_Nelson_)