14 Apr 2017

World-Class Series [No4]: Wayne Rooney (Manchester United and England). Is he 'world-class'?

Man Utd star Wayne Rooney appears to be on the outs under Jose Mourinho, but in his prime, was Rooney a genuine world-class player?

World Class: My Definition

Before a player can be deemed 'world-class', he/she must have a Specific, Measurable Impact (SMI) at all three levels of football, and push his/her team to relative success at all three levels.

The Three Levels

* Domestic: National leagues.

* European: Champions League, Europa League, or equivalent.

* World: International - qualifying and/or tournaments.

Relative Success: OAL and SMI

* What is the the team's Optimum Achievement Level (OAL) in a given competition? In other words, based on historical performance, what is the absolute best the team can realistically expect to achieve?

* Causation: The player's causal contribution to his team's OAL. To what extend did the player in question help the team to meet its OAL? But for the player under consideration, would the team still have achieved its OAL?

* A variety of objective, position-specific criteria should be used when assessing the SMI of players. For example, for attacking players: Goals; assists; conversion rate; key passes; shot-assists; passing accuracy etc. For defenders: goals conceded; blocks; aerial duels won; tackle success rate etc.

* Players in inferior teams are still capable of being 'world class' as long as their SMI is such that they excel, and push their team to achieve its OAL (though in all cases, SMI at all three levels is required).


* SMI at Domestic Level: Manchester United: 288 goals/assists in 387 apps. Reached double figures for goals/assists in 9 of his 13 seasons at Old Trafford. Helped United win 9 domestic trophies (including 5 league titles). 7 'Player of the Year' awards. Selected 3 times for the PFA 'Team of the Year'. Man Utd's all time top scorer (all comps). 3rd highest league goalscorer. Overall goals/assists record: 395 goals/assists in 551 apps (one every 112 mins).

* SMI at European level: Manchester United: 54 goals/assists in 88 Champions League matches. Man Utd's all time top scorer in Europe. Scored CL goals vs. top European sides such as Roma, AC Milan, Porto, Bayern, Chelsea, and 
Barcelona. 2008: Helped Utd win the European Cup (contributing 5 goals/assists).

* SMI at International level: England: 75 goals/assists in 119 England games (one every 118 mins). 45 goals/assists (60% of total) in various World Cup/European Championship qualification campaigns. Played in 3 World Cups and 3 European Championships (9 goals/assists in 21 World Cup/Euros games = One every 171 mins).

- England's all time top goalscorer. England 'Player of the Year' 4 times. England's most capped outfield player (119 apps). Most apps in competitive games (74). 2003. Youngest England goalscorer in a Euros qualifying game. Youngest ever England goalscorer overall.

- 2004: Euros Team of the Tournament. Euro 2004: Most goals in a single Euros (2 goals vs. Switzerland and Croatia). 2004: Youngest ever England goalscorer at a European Championship. 2004: Youngest England player to feature in a WC qualifying game. World Cup 2010: Most goals in a single World Cup qualifying campaign.

England OAL: Qualified for the World Cup/Euros 23 times (combined), but only ever won one tournament. Reached the semi-finals 4 times (including WC 1966) and quarter-finals 10 times. Knocked out in the group stages 7 times overall. Given recent and overall history, I'd argue that England's OAL in major international tournaments is a Quarter-final appearance.

* Conclusion: Rooney undoubtedly meets the domestic and European criteria, and although he underperformed at three World Cups (2 goals/assists in 11 games), he grabbed 7 goals/assists in 10 games at the European Championships. Plus, his 45 goals/assists in various qualifying campaigns had a major impact on qualification for six international tournaments, and it's hard to argue with his international goal record (top scorer in England's history).

* Verdict: Just about World-Class (in the prime of his career) but no longer WC.


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