Less than 10 months before what could have been his fourth World Cup, striker Wayne Rooney has announced his retirement from the England national team, effective immediately.
Rooney, who scored 53 goals in 119 games for England, made the announcement on social media and on his personal website Wednesday.
— Wayne Rooney (@WayneRooney) August 23, 2017
The 53 goals and 119 appearances are both England records for non-goalkeepers. Rooney also took on the England captaincy after the 2014 World Cup.
But over the past two or three years, the country’s all-time leading goalscorer gradually ceded the attacking spotlight to younger talents like Harry Kane and Dele Alli. His last competitive match for England was a 3-0 victory over Scotland last November. In March, national team manager Gareth Southgate omitted Rooney from a 26-man squad for a friendly against Germany and a World Cup qualifier against Lithuania. The 31-year-old was again left out for June’s qualifier against Scotland.
Southgate called Rooney this week after watching him score against Manchester City on Monday. According to Rooney, Southgate intended to bring the Everton striker back into his squad for upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Malta and Slovakia. Instead, Rooney shared his decision.
“Having already thought long and hard, I told Gareth that I had now decided to retire for good from international football,” he wrote on his personal site.
Rooney recently returned to Everton, his boyhood club, after 13 successful years at Manchester United. He said his ambitions with Everton factored into his decision. “Leaving Manchester United was a tough call but I know I made the right decision in coming home to Everton,” he wrote. “Now I want to focus all my energies on helping them be successful.”
Rooney announced 12 months ago that he planned to retire from international duty after the 2018 World Cup. But various factors, including Southgate’s decisions to make Kane, Alli and others the focal points of his attack, likely accelerated the timeline.
Rooney was often criticized by England fans, especially in recent years as his performance declined, and as his precise role in the team became more hazy. Rooney played under three different England managers since taking the captain’s armband from Steven Gerrard, but played in a variety of different roles — striker, No. 10, central midfield, wide left. He was not particularly effective in any of them.
Rooney was also underwhelming at three World Cups and three European Championships. He appeared in 11 World Cup matches, but netted just one goal. In a 2006 quarterfinal against Portugal, he was sent off for a stamp on Ricardo Carvalho. In 2010, England went home after a Round of 16 defeat to Germany, and four years later they were dumped out in the group stage.
Rooney’s decision to remove himself from consideration for the World Cup next summer, rather than force Southgate to make a decision on whether to do so, will save both a headache. The Rooney question would have been a subject of daily debate leading into the squad selection. And if Rooney were selected, similar debates would have persisted throughout England’s stay in Russia.
Now that Rooney has played his last international match, though, those that were critical will surely appreciate what he brought to the Three Lions for over a decade. They’ll also no longer have a natural scapegoat.
“Playing for England has always been special to me,” Rooney wrote. “Every time I was selected as a player or captain was a real privilege and I thank everyone who helped me. But I believe now is the time to bow out.
“I will always remain a passionate England fan. One of my very few regrets is not to have been part of a successful England tournament side. Hopefully the exciting players Gareth is bringing through can take that ambition further and I hope everyone will get behind the team.
“One day the dream will come true and I look forward to being there as a fan – or in any capacity.”
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Henry Bushnell covers soccer – the U.S. national teams, the Premier League, and much, much more – for FC Yahoo and Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell.