The Tournament of Legends

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Monday, July 30, 2007

Wayne Rooney: Will he be a Champions League Legend?

Wayne Mark Rooney is seen as one of the most exciting prospects of the modern game , his transfer fee from Everton still stands as the highest ever paid for a teenager. He normally played as a second striker to Ruud van Nistelrooy for his club team before van Nistelrooy's move to Real Madrid, although during 2005-06, he showed his versatility as a player by shifting to the midfield and playing on both flanks. He wears the number 8 shirt for Manchester United and the number 9 shirt for the English national team.

Rooney was brought up in an urban area of eastern Liverpool called Croxteth, where he and his two brothers attended the local De La Salle Catholic School.

Rooney grew up supporting Everton and his childhood hero was Duncan Ferguson, and wore a T-shirt reading "Once a blue, Always a blue". However, he would end up playing just two seasons with Everton before demanding, and then executing, a transfer. This has left him on unfavourable terms with Everton fans, and this showed when he returned to Goodison Park and was booed severely.

Rooney has been under an intense media spotlight since first arriving on the scene in 2002, particularly coming to the public's notice on 19 October 2002 when he scored a memorable goal against title-holders Arsenal, ending their 30-match unbeaten run. Receiving the ball on the edge of the 18-yard box, Rooney brought it down with instant control and turned away from his marker before firing it into the top left-hand corner of the goal, beating England keeper David Seaman and giving Everton a late 2-1 victory at Goodison Park. This goal provoked Clive Tyldesley, the match commentator, to exclaim 'remember the name, Wayne Rooney!'. Rooney was only 16 years old when he scored the goal, making him the youngest ever goalscorer in the Premiership at the time. Rooney gained a huge reputation on the world stage due to his performance at Euro 2004, as he spearheaded the English attack, scoring four goals, eclipsing fellow England team mate Michael Owen.



Everton

After excelling for Liverpool Schoolboys and The Dynamo Brownwings, Rooney was signed by Everton shortly before his 11th birthday. Rooney gained national prominence on the 19th of October 2002 when he became the youngest goal scorer in the history of the Premier League at 16 years and 360 days while playing for Everton (though this record has since been surpassed twice by James Milner and current record holder James Vaughan). His goal against then-champions Arsenal was a last-minute winner and brought to an end the London side's 30-match unbeaten run. At the end of 2002 he won the BBC Sports Young Personality of the Year.

Transfer

Before turning 17 and becoming eligible for a professional contract, he was playing for £80 a week and living with his family on a council estate. His salary has since been increased several times and Rooney now earns an estimated £51,755 a week. Following intense media coverage of Rooney at Euro 2004, Everton claimed that they would not transfer his contract for less than £50 million. The club offered Rooney a new contract for £12,000 a week for three years. This, however, was turned down by Rooney's agent on the 27 August 2004, leaving Manchester United and Newcastle United to compete for his signature.

The Times newspaper reported that Newcastle were close to signing the young star for £18.5 million, a fact later confirmed by Rooney's agent. Manchester United, however, were the successful club in signing the young talent. Rooney handed in a transfer request to Everton and on 31 August 2004, Rooney signed for Manchester United after a deal worth around £31 million (£49 million including wages) was agreed. The deal was concluded just hours before the transfer deadline.

The initial fee of £23m was paid to Everton over two years; the rest of the money depends on appearances and/or success at Manchester United and/or England. It is likely the fee will reach the maximum £31m within the next 3 years. A final fee in the region of £30m plus costs is more likely. In the club's 2004-05 accounts, Rooney's contract is recorded as having a book cost of £25.066 million as at 30 June 2005, with contingent payables of £14 million, giving a maximum final fee of £39.066 million including costs.

Rooney's transfer fee is the second highest for an exclusively British deal, with only his Manchester United team-mate, Rio Ferdinand, commanding a higher fee. Rooney does, however, have the honour of being the most expensive teenage footballer ever, being only 18 when Manchester United signed him.

Manchester United

Rooney made his debut for Manchester United on 28 September 2004 in the UEFA Champions League against Fenerbah├že, scoring a hat-trick and also an assist (the match finished in a 6-2 win for United). For the 2005-06 season, Rooney initially started playing in wider positions than his more favoured central role. Pundits and fans alike agreed that he seemed less effective in such positions. Eventually, after Manchester United's poor run of form early in the season, Sir Alex Ferguson moved him back to his stronger position, playing behind Dutchman Ruud van Nistelrooy as a second striker. He got his first professional Winners Medal in the 2006 English League Cup. He was also named Man of the Match in the League Cup final against Wigan Athletic, after scoring two goals in the final (a 4-0 victory for United), en route to winning his first senior medal. He was also a member of the United side defeated in the 2005 FA Cup Final by Arsenal. He captained Manchester United for the first time in a home Champions League match against Copenhagen on 17 October 2006, becoming probably the youngest captain in the clubs' history. On 26 November 2006 he signed a two-year extension to his contract, which will keep him at Old Trafford until at least 2012; the contract extension negotiations only took one month, which was interpreted as showing how keen both sides were to conclude the extension.



Rooney has been a prolific goal scorer for Manchester United and Everton, matching the level of goals scored by other strikers such as Ruud van Nistelrooy. Also, he is a regular assist contributor. In the 2005-2006 season he achieved a final total of 14 assists and 16 goals, fewer goals than his current strike partner Louis Saha, but more assists.

During the first half of the 2006-7 season, Rooney went 10 games without a goal before scoring a hat-trick against Bolton. There was speculation[weasel words] about his fitness and confidence on the pitch, as he seemed less active than he usually is and his presence on the field was somewhat overshadowed by the brilliant form of Portuguese winger Cristiano Ronaldo. Rooney's scoring rate had been matched by Louis Saha and exceeded by Cristiano Ronaldo, a winger. Nevertheless, as of February 2007 he was the top English goalscorer in the Premiership, and had received significantly fewer bookings than in previous seasons. In the FA Cup tie against Portsmouth, Rooney came on as a substitute and scored two goals, one of which was a 25-yard chip over goalkeeper David James, and soon after scored two of United's four goals in the derby against Bolton. Rooney scored his first goal for two-and-a-half years in Europe in a 2-1 defeat to A.S. Roma on 4 April 2007 in the quarter-final first leg of the Champions League. His scoring in the tournament continued in the quarter-final second leg against Roma and the semi-final first leg on, when he scored two goals in the 3-2 victory over A.C. Milan, the second a low first-time drive into the bottom right-hand corner. By the end of April, Rooney had scored 23 goals for his team in all competitions, taking him ahead of teammate Cristiano Ronaldo in goals scored in all competitions this season.

National team career

He has also figured prominently in recent England international matches, after having become the youngest ever player to play for England, in a friendly against Australia, on 12 February 2003, aged 17 years, 111 days. This record has since been surpassed by Theo Walcott, who came off the bench to play in England's friendly against Hungary on 30 May 2006. England's youngest ever player previous to Rooney was James F. M. Prinsep of Clapham Rovers, who made his debut almost one and a quarter centuries before, on 5 April 1879, aged 17 years, 253 days. Rooney is also the youngest England scorer ever (17 years, 317 days).

His reputation as one of the world's most exciting young players was further enhanced by his highly regarded performances for England at Euro 2004 in Portugal. At the tournament Rooney became the youngest player ever to score in the UEFA European Football Championships, when on 17 June 2004 he scored twice against Switzerland; although the Swiss player, Johan Vonlanthen, broke this record against France four days later. Unfortunately Rooney was injured early in the quarter final match against Portugal and England were subsequently knocked out on penalties.