Wayne Rooney is one of the best footballers in the world. On the grand scale, reaching from Messi and Ronaldo at the pinnacle right down to the most overweight of park hackers in the gutter, Wayne Rooney is unquestionably so close to the top that he’s covered with snow all year round. Of this there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever.
The problem is that you could say the same about James Milner, or Dean Whitehead, or Marouanes Fellaini and Chamakh. We see these as average to poor Premiership players but, on the grand football scale, they’re all so close to the top of the sport that they could spit over the summit.
It doesn’t take much to become a professional footballer in England. If we say that there are (ballpark) around 5000 professional footballers in the country, that’s very very roughly one in every 1500 men of the relevant age (60m divided by 2 for gender, 4 for rough age range and 5000 for the number of players). Decent odds.
If you want to be one of the best three players on the planet, then your odds are closer to one in three million. You need every little advantage you can get to push that final, steep climb to the very, very top.
If Wayne Rooney is happy being near the top of the 5000 in England, but doesn’t particularly want to break into the global three, then he should carry on eating takeaways, getting pissed, smoking and turning up for pre-season training having put on 7lbs.
You can guarantee that, in the mean time, Ronaldo and Messi (and Kagawa, and Van Persie, and Milner, and Fellaini, Whitehead, Chamakh) will have been watching what they eat, following a strict fitness regime and turning up for pre season training in fighting shape. They’ll be better for it. Look at Fellaini in the first game of the season. Absolute beast. Rooney in comparison was far, far off the pace and visibly overweight.
Ronaldo’s body is his temple. He would never, ever be seen overweight, eating a kebab, smoking, drinking pint after pint. Messi is also as clean-living as possible. His favourite pastime is to play FIFA with his brother. Rooney, like Ricky Hatton before him, just cannot wait to get off the clock and on the grog.
Rooney rationalizes his behaviour by saying that it only takes two weeks to shed the weight. Two whole weeks! Those are two weeks that could have been spent honing his physical fitness even more had he not gorged himself on beer and takeaways whilst pocketing part of his £13m a year. Time was even more critical for Rooney this summer given his involvement in the Euros and United’s stupid pre-season schedule that prioritized selling shirts to Glazer-agnostic foreigners over actually getting ready to play games of football.
Given these pressures, Rooney turning up overweight is the same as you or I turning up to work the morning of an important meeting with a stinking hangover and having it affect our work. We might not be paid for the time we spend away from the workplace, but we have a responsibility to ensure that our actions away from it do not affect our performance when we return. In this regard, Rooney has failed miserably.
Unfortunately, Rooney’s attitude is a cultural one, typical English. He will do what he wants when he’s away from work, and it will be the job of his coaches and nutritionists to fix the damage he has done. Not his job. Someone else’s. He’ll do the bare minimum, because that will be enough.
If Rooney wants to be the best, then not only does he need to change his diet and fitness regime, but his entire attitude towards the less glamorous parts of the game needs to change. It’s all very well wanting to score hundreds of goals for Manchester United, but you can’t do that if you’re wheezing in the centre circle because everyone else is fitter than you.