Things are going from bad to worse for Manchester United and England captain Wayne Rooney.
It was reported over the weekend by The Times that the 30-year-old is at the centre of an alleged ‘tax avoidance’ scheme involving a film firm and multiple other investors.
Rooney supposedly invested £12.5 million of his footballing fortune into the company, whom, after selling two movies, filed for tax relief leaving ‘Wazza’ dodging a £3.5m tax bill. The England international has strongly denied any wrongdoing.
This, combined with news that interim England manager Gareth Southgate will bench Rooney for the nation’s World Cup qualifier against Slovenia on Tuesday night, caps off a torrid couple of months for the country’s all-time leading goalscorer.
Speaking to the media on Monday, the striker insisted that he will fit to regain his international place, saying:
“I am 30 years of age, I am not 35 or 36 where you are thinking: ‘can you get back from it?’. I will turn up when called upon and be ready. I’ve never thought: ‘I don’t need this’. As I keep saying after the summer it would have been easy for my to walk away and say ‘That’s it, I’ve had enough’ but that’s not me.
“I feel I have a lot to offer and I’ve made that clear, certainly up until Russia 2018, if we get there. That’s what I want to fulfil.”
Starting with England’s unexpected exit to Iceland at Euro 2016, Rooney’s performances, in particular, have come under fire. The Manchester Utd man was left with fans calling for his international retirement.
United manager José Mourinho gave the 30-year-old, who made his senior debut in football at the age of 16 for Everton and his senior international debut at the age of 17, a vote of confidence by keeping Rooney as his captain for the 2016/17 season.
After several underwhelming performances in his favoured #10 position for his club, Rooney found himself dropped for a massive home league fixture against Premier League champions Leicester City three weeks ago. United went on to a storming 4-1 victory, scoring all four goals before the captain made his way on to the pitch as a substitute.
Mourinho again dropped his captain the following week against Stoke City at Old Trafford where the match ended in a 1-1 draw. Rooney made a substitute’s appearance and appeared to brighten United’s day with a misplaced shot leading to the Red Devil’s only goal of the game.
A week later ‘Wazza’ started in midfield for his country under Southgate. England won the game comfortably 2-0, but Rooney, once again, found himself under fire for his performance on the night, even being booed by a section of English fans during the game.
Now, in the days before another important World Cup Qualifier against Slovenia, Southgate has followed in Mourinho’s footsteps and benched his captain. Rooney will start the match on the bench as Spur’s Eric Dier starts the game in midfield instead of England’s all-time leading goalscorer. Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson will wear the captain’s armband.
Rooney added: “I am not naive in terms of thinking that I am still a 20-year-old who could do what I could do when I was 20.
“I think Jordan’s a fantastic leader. He’s took an incredibly difficult job from Steven Gerrard and he’s really grown into that position.”
Wayne Rooney England’s highest record goalscorer in the history of our game. Soon to be the most capped player our great country has ever produced. One of the very best players I have seen and had the pleasure playing with in my lifetime and a man who has given everything for England. An absolute LEGEND at Everton,Man Utd,England and world football. We should all show more respect to this great player and man. Let’s all get behind Wayne and the England team tomorrow. @waynerooney ???⚽️??
It’s hard to see things getting any worse for Rooney, but give how the past six months have gone, it really wouldn’t surprise anyone if there were were further depths to sink to.
The question on everyone’s mind, however, is what is actually going on with the player himself. Is he simply feeling the effects of the modern-day game, having started out so young? Or are there other issues at play, issues yet to come to the surface?
Bradley Bates, Pundit Arena