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Wayne Rooney is “under-appreciated” despite being one of the 10 best British players ever, says former England striker Gary Lineker.
Everton forward Rooney, 31, scored his 200th Premier League goal in Monday’s 1-1 draw at Manchester City.
He is the all-time leading scorer for both England – with 53 – and Manchester United, for whom he scored 253 times in all competitions over 13 years.
“He’s been a great player for English football,” said Lineker.
When asked whether former England captain Rooney was under-appreciated, Match of the Day presenter Lineker said: “He probably is. He’d be [one of Britain’s] top 10 ever – he’s had a marvellous career.”
‘England’s only world-class player’
Lineker added Rooney – overlooked by England manager Gareth Southgate for matches against Scotland and Spain in June – has been “unfortunate” to have played most of his national career as the team’s “only world-class player” after the end of the so-called ‘golden generation’.
Rooney made his major tournament debut aged 18 at Euro 2004 in a squad containing Frank Lampard, John Terry, Michael Owen, Steven Gerrard, Gary Neville, Paul Scholes, David Beckham and Ashley Cole.
He scored four goals in the tournament, but broke a bone in his foot during England’s quarter-final exit to hosts Portugal. England have yet to progress beyond the quarter-finals of a major tournament since Euro 1996.
“[England] went through a time of being bereft of world-class talent – it was just him,” said Lineker.
“He’s gone to play in tournaments, sometimes not fully fit, sometimes fit, in a team that’s not really good enough, and he’s suffered a little bit from that.
“Those of us who remember his early career – he was phenomenal. He did it in Portugal. We might have gone on to win that one if he hadn’t [got injured], we were looking so good.”
‘He worked too hard because he’s honest’
Rooney was often left out of Manchester United’s starting line-up by manager Jose Mourinho last season, making 25 Premier League appearances – his fewest in a league campaign.
Lineker said the striker had “gradually slowed down” because he “worked too hard and chased back too much” earlier in his career.
“But that was for the right reasons – he’s doing that because he’s so honest,” added Lineker.
“Everyone gets a bit under-appreciated because we are a judgemental society but it’s also very tribal, football – if he’s playing for Manchester United, automatically a lot of people would dislike him.”
‘His team-mates never doubt him’ – Jagielka
Rooney has now scored twice in two Premier League games since rejoining first club Everton in July.
Toffees team-mate Phil Jagielka, 35, said he did not understand criticism of Rooney as the striker’s record was “second to none” for club and country.
“Wayne and his team-mates never doubt him, so I am not sure why people would doubt him,” said Jagielka, who has made 40 England appearances.
“So far for us, in pre-season and in the league and in our brief European stint, he has been one of our best players and hopefully that will continue.”
Rooney has said he is “focusing on Everton” rather than an international recall, but Jagielka believes the striker “has more goals to go for” if he is recalled by England.
However, he added: “If not, we would be delighted he gets a rest and is ready to go for us.”
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