Wayne Rooney has given his first press conference since making his return to Everton and spoke with confidence and excitement about the challenge ahead.
Everyone seems to have an opinion on the former Manchester United captain’s move back to Merseyside but what did we learn from the words of Rooney and his manager Ronald Koeman on Monday?
Here, we pick out six questions that were addressed…
Is this just a sentimental move?
A lot has been made of the romance involved in this return and Rooney was happy to talk that up, warmly describing the joy shared by both his eldest son and father. But ultimately Rooney is well aware that he going back to Goodison Park to play football. Koeman will be under pressure too and needs him to deliver. The pair appear to have each other’s trust.
In fact, Koeman is counting on Rooney’s ambition; his desire to satisfy the demands of the crowd. “He showed me that he liked the pressure,” said the Dutchman. “Sometimes you need that pressure. The ambition that he showed was enough for me.” Rooney summed it up nicely. “I’m not coming to a retirement home,” he said. “I want to play. I want to win.”
Are trophies on the agenda?
Rooney was clear that he has returned to Goodison Park with the aim of lifting trophies for his boyhood club. He was a young fan in the Wembley crowd for their 1-0 win over Manchester United in the 1995 FA Cup final, and he is determined to end their 22-year trophyless run by lifting the next one himself.
“That’s why you play football, to try to win trophies,” he said. United’s Europa League final win over Ajax last season was Rooney’s 11th major trophy during his time at Old Trafford, but he admits winning something with Everton would have added meaning. “To win a trophy at Everton as a player would be a special moment,” he said.
Where will he play?
Last summer, Jose Mourinho used his first press conference as Manchester United manager to declare that Rooney would no longer be used as a midfielder. Koeman did not mention a deep-lying role either, but he did make a point of stressing the significance of the player’s versatility after Rooney insisted the decision will come down to his new manager.
“A player with his qualities can play different positions but offensively,” said Koeman. “He can be a 10 behind the striker, a nine, wide left or a seven.” The Everton boss added that he has signed Rooney in order to boost his team’s productivity in front of goal. “I prefer to have several players scoring 10 to 15 goals than one player scoring 25,” he said. Rooney, in other words, will be expected to help fill the void left by Romelu Lukaku.
Will he be an asset off the field?
It is clear that Rooney regards regular football as a key reason for his return, but Koeman was keen to focus on the intangible benefits of the player’s vast experience too. Qualities even Lukaku did not possess. “The experience of Wayne is really important,” he explained. “We have also some really good young talent and it is exciting for them to learn from him.”
Koeman suggested that having Rooney in the team will bring confidence even in the tunnel. “I think we really missed a player like Wayne,” he added. At Manchester United, the winning mentality of Zlatan Ibrahimovic was identified as a key factor in inspiring belief among the younger players. It seems Rooney will be expected to fulfil that role at Everton.
Is he fit enough to deliver?
When asked whether he was feeling sharp back on the training field, Rooney’s reply was even sharper. “Not today,” he joked. “It is obviously my first day back training with the players. I am not fit at the moment but that will come up in the coming weeks.” That’s the plan. Even so, expect Rooney’s fitness levels to be scrutinised intensely this season.
While he is still only 31, it has long been suggested that longevity could be an issue for Rooney. Perhaps his hope is that playing more regularly will help in that regard. “I need to play games,” he said. “I know I am at my best when I am playing consistently.” Whether that proves so straightforward after playing a bit-part role so far in 2017 remains to be seen.
Is the England dream still alive?
Rooney made it clear that his club is his priority not his England career. “To be honest, I am not focused on it,” he said. “I am focused on Everton.” But he did not close the door on his international career and the possibility remains that he could yet add to his record tally of 53 goals for his country. It is just a case of impressing England boss Gareth Southgate.
“Hopefully if my performances are good enough for Everton he won’t be able to ignore me,” added Rooney. The prospect of playing more regularly for a top-half Premier League team certainly gives him the opportunity to earn another chance. With a World Cup less than a year away, it seems Rooney is open to one last crack at winning a trophy with England too.Soccer Accumulator Bonus
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