Ever controversial off the field, there is only consensus about Rooney’s on-field ability. Although he can be hot-tempered and rash, like the last-minute kickout at a Montenegrin in England’s last qualifier that will cost him the first two games of the Euro, all is inevitably forgiven on account of Rooney’s footballing splendor.
A hybrid of a striker, attacking midfielder and winger, Rooney roams far from his spot as a central forward, thoughtfully connecting with teammates, helping in the buildup of attacks, running at defenders, shooting from distance or getting on the end of balls to score himself. Hard-working and blessed with a body that can act on his inspiration, Rooney could be as good and complete a forward as England has ever produced. In recent years, even his heading has improved.
He bears a mighty burden, though. Since Michael Owen’s precipitous drop-off in form in the mid-2000s, Rooney has easily been England’s outstanding striker, flanked by a revolving door of mediocre men. Thus he has shouldered an outsized share of the crushing hype surrounding every England appearance at a major international tournament. Heading into Euro 2012 at age 26, having appeared in two World Cups too, Rooney has yet to really shine at one of the game’s quadrennial bonanzas. The argument has been made that being out for his team’s first two games could improve Rooney’s odds of making an impact at the business end of the tournament, when he’ll be fresher than his peers. That’s if England makes it that far without him, of course. And that is a big if.
Expert's take: The most dangerous player for England despite that he'll miss the first two games of the Euros. Young, aggressive and very talented. If he plays well, England plays well. If not, England tends to struggle. A real leader. -- Steve McManaman
Stats That Matter:
• Two goals shy of becoming the eighth English player with 30 international goals
• England’s youngest-ever goalscorer, striking at 17 years and 317 days in a Euro 2004 qualifying victory in Macedonia in 2003
• Only teenager ever to score for England at a European Championship, tallying four goals at age 18 in 2004
• Six career Premier League hat tricks, most by any Manchester United player
• Led Manchester United and was sixth in the Premier League with 623 passes completed in the final third of the field in 2011-12