England caretaker manager Gareth Southgate believes Wayne Rooney has nothing left to prove, insisting the 31-year-old’s class is permanent.
Rooney, following a woeful performance against Malta last month, was left out of England’s World Cup qualifier with Slovenia.
The striker has been handed the captaincy and a place in the starting XI for the contest with Scotland on Friday night.
Speaking ahead of the encounter, Southgate insisted Rooney – who became England’s all-time top goalscorer last year – has nothing left to prove as a player.
“I think he will play well,” he said. “He doesn’t have anything to prove to me.
“The whole basis of our conversation around that game wasn’t about my belief in him as a player. I made a decision that I thought was right for that game.
“But I think he is a big-game player with big-match experience and I think a night like tomorrow is perfect for him.
“I don’t know but I think class is permanent, isn’t it?
“Look, we all have moments as players where you have runs of games and part of being a top professional for years is that you have to grind the difficult moments out.
“There’s matches and periods where you know you are not at your best and they’re games you have to grind out and play your part for the team.”
Rooney has without doubt eclipsed the achievements of any other English player in today’s modern game: 317 goals (and counting) for club and country, ten major honours, and the enduring admiration of millions around the globe – his name will echoed in the same breath as Bobby Charlton, Alan Shearer, Gary Lineker and Paul Gascoigne when people, many years from now, look back on his career.
However, back in the present, things are a bit less rosy. Rooney may command respect and admiration, but such sentiments are tied to a level of brilliance that no longer exists in the striker’s game, and the footballing world is slowly acknowledging that the 31-year-old’s potency is rapidly fading as his legs call time on an exceptional career.