Diego Maradona, Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo (Luís Nazário de Lima), Franz Beckenbauer, Ruud Gullit and Robeto Baggio. What is the link? Previous World Players of the Year? No. World Cup winners? No. Players which the Libero failed to get in his Panini World cup sticker albums? No. The link is 26. The age 26 in fact. Why? Because it’s at the age of 26 that each of these players achieved something that would live long in the memory, earning them their place in the hall of football legends, which they would go on to cement in the peak of their careers. Maradona , Zidane and Ronaldo provided outstanding performances, carrying the weight of their nations of their shoulder, to win the world cup. The Kaiser and Gullit captained their countries to European Championship Glory. Baggio was outstanding as Juventus won the Uefa Cup (when it was a proper competition), earning him the Ballon D’or. A current player, whose been around so long and achieved so much already, turns 26 in October this year. Big stage failures, personal issues and questionable temperament have led many to question whether or not this man would fulfil the undoubted potential he possesses. But the Libero believes that this man is about to step up and will this year do something that will silence the doubters and which will allow him to join the illustrious list of aforementioned players. The player is – Wayne Rooney.
The Libero is certain to divide opinion on this. No doubt the Man Utd fans think Rooney is already good enough to be considered amongst the names listed and the ABU Brigade just can’t bring themselves to agree that he could be held in such esteem. Regardless, here are the reasons why the Libero thinks the Liverpool lad is about to come of age:
Fulcrum – Rooney has been the focal point of the Man Utd attack since Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure in 2009. However this season, Rooney role has changed every so slightly. Everything that now happens for United goes through Rooney and he is combining the role of lone striker with that of a ‘classic number’ 10. If you watch his movement during a game, he will often come so deep he picks the ball up from the centre halves. But equally when United go direct he can be seen playing off the last defender. He plays both to perfection and virtually simultaneously, with Ferguson’s signing of Ashley young provides additional pace and goals to the United attack, allowing Rooney to undertake this dual role to perfection. He has filled the ‘creative midfielder’ void that so many people highlighted during the summer and United now look a more accomplished team because of it.
Seniority –In 1996 when Ferguson unleashed his ‘Fledging’s’ on the Premier League, he had lost Paul Ince, Mark Hughes, Bryan Robson and Andrei Kanchelskis. Whilst some senior players remained, they were on their last legs at the club and Roy Keane, began to exert his influence on the United dressing room. For the Libero this is a similar situation. Gone are Van der Sar, Scholes, Neville, O’Shea and Brown, 5 players of significant experience and influence and at 26, Rooney will now be considered one of the more senior players at the Club. No doubt Ferguson has highlighted this to Rooney and he will now be expected to lead by example on and off the field.
Personal Life – Ferguson has often been an advocate of a steady home life for his players, evidenced by the fact that those without it haven’t enjoyed sustained periods at the club. After a tumultuous 2010, 2011 has been a much more settled year in Rooney’s personal life. He now looks a more content person and it appears he has put his past misdemeanours behind him. This must be sustained as the status quo should Rooney wish to reach the level which the Libero has identified.
The Libero isn’t usually one to jump the gun and has often doubted whether Rooney can finally fully fulfil his undoubted potential, but having watch the Man Utd number 10 closely in the first few games of the season, it’s seems as though his time to shine is here!