Steven Gerrard believes Wayne Rooney will only be recognised as an England great after he has retired from international football.
Over the last decade Rooney has been emblematic of the hopes and failure of the national team, and has often struggled with the weight of expectation after bursting onto the scene at Euro 2004.
The Manchester United captain has impressed in a midfield role at Euro 2016, and former Liverpool skipper suggests Rooney deserves more credit.
“Like all of us who have played for our country, Wayne has had to endure plenty of criticism in the years since his England debut. I have a feeling his achievements and contribution to the national team will be appreciated far more when he is retired than they have been so far,” Gerrard wrote in the Daily Telegraph.
“To become the record goalscorer and (hopefully during the course of this tournament) the most capped outfield England player is a notable achievement. But I know that will not be enough for him. He wants to be the player who leads England to tournament success. That’s because he is a born winner.
“You will not hear Wayne talking about it being acceptable for England to get to the quarter-final or even a semi-final. He is in France to win. The last thing he will want is to be the next England captain forced to sit in a press conference the day after a defeat trying to offer his thoughts on the latest post-mortem on English football.
“He will be desperate to make the difference or score a decisive goal. That’s the mentality we want in the England team and nobody epitomises it more than him.”
After starting the season in poor form for United, Rooney’s place in England’s starting XI was being questioned, with many critics suggesting Roy Hodgson should leave the 30-year-old out this summer.
But Gerrard has hit back at such claims and insists Rooney remains the key figure in the Three Lions’ squad.
“When I was back home last Christmas I did a few interviews and was asked if Wayne should be in the England team. I can remember exactly how I felt hearing that. There was a smile followed by a shake of the head to express my disbelief,” he added.
“I was staggered this was on the agenda in the build up to the European Championship. ‘Is this seriously what people are talking about over here at the moment? Are you telling me there are better England players than Wayne Rooney?’ I replied.
“Some were going even further, arguing Wayne’s place in Roy Hodgson’s squad should be under threat. It was embarrassing at the time and I hope those who were peddling these ideas feel even more ridiculous now.
“This happens too much with the England team. Everyone is entitled to an opinion but a bandwagon gets started and before you know it there is a misguided clamour for one player or another to be ditched or promoted. Such opinions are not based on football insight or facts, but on soundbites, the flavour of the month or some high-profile critic’s desire for headlines or publicity.”