When Wayne Rooney eventually hangs up his boots, he will rightly be considered as one of the greatest players to ever kick a football. The Liverpool-born forward is England’s all time leading goalscorer with 53 goals in 119 appearances and is the holder of the same accolade at Manchester United. Rooney scored his 250th goal with a splendid direct free kick in a 1-1 draw against Stoke on the 21st January, surpassing Bobby Charlton’s long standing record of 249 goals for the red side of Manchester.
At the age of 31, Rooney has seen his playing time in the starting eleven cut quite dramatically over the last couple of years, with last season’s total of 25 Premier League appearances a career low for the forward. Earlier this month, Rooney opted to leave Manchester United and resign for his boyhood club on a 2-year deal but can the England captain still cut it at the highest level?
It’s important to note that Rooney, despite playing as a striker for most of his career, has been utilised in a deeper role for the best part of the last three years. After the arrival of Louis Van Gaal in the 2014-2015 season, the Dutchman preferred Robin Van Persie up front and opted to deploy Rooney in midfield for the large majority of the season.
Whilst this move was questioned by both supporters and onlookers alike, Rooney still ended the season as United’s top scorer with 14 goals, 12 of those coming in the Premier League. Moreover, the season before Rooney’s foray into midfield, the striker netted 17 times in the Premier league as well as topping the assist table in the 2013-2014 Champions league with 8 assists, two more than second placed Angel Di Maria, who would later go on to play with Rooney at Old Trafford for a brief and unsuccessful period.
Whilst the recent years have represented more of a lean period for Rooney, he still scored 15 goals in all competitions in the 2015-2016 season and, whilst only managing 8 last campaign, many of his appearances came from the bench. Opportunities have also been limited in the kind of roles that Rooney has become accustomed to occupying, with the emergence of players such as Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard, and the arrival of world class players such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba.
There’s little doubt that Rooney will be a definite starter at Everton but much of his success will depend on where he plays. After netting more than 10 Premier League goals for 11 consecutive seasons up until as recently as 2 years ago, Everton would probably be wise to play the striker as far forward as possible and, if this is indeed the case, Rooney looks good value at 5/6 with Oddschecker to score more than 8 Premier League goals in the following season.
With the sale of Lukaku to Manchester United, Everton are likely to be in the market for another striker who can place the big Belgian’s goals. However, if Ronald Koeman can get Rooney firing again, acquiring the striker on a free transfer might just be the best business they will do all season. With Everton spending almost £100m in this summer’s transfer window already, the Merseyside club are showing plenty of intent for the upcoming season and being surrounded by quality players certainly won’t harm Rooney’s chances of recapturing his best form. At 31, the Evertonian surely isn’t finished yet.