On Sunday at Old Trafford, Wayne Rooney cemented his claim as the king of English football with yet another devastating performance in what has been a season of growth, maturity and by the looks of things, destiny.
On Sunday at the San Siro, former England captain, David Beckham, for all intents and purposes died as a footballer. At 34 years of age he’s going to find it incredibly tough to return to the top flight after suffering a torn Achilles heel.
The King is dead. Long live the King!
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The monarchy always changes hands when there is a death or abdication. Rooney, the Prince-in-waiting will now get his turn to ascend the throne. Meanwhile we will pay our respects to the fallen monarch, because Beckham was the king of English football.
While the world of football does not have a king, it does bestow a title to the recognized best player.
This title is FIFA World Player of the Year and is awarded by FIFA after voting has been done by coaches and captains on international teams. It is a title missing from the resume of both men.
In fact, it is a title that no Englishman has ever held although Beckham was twice a runner-up in 1999 and 2001. Those were the years of his England and Manchester United pomp.
I think we can all agree though that in the ‘big’ picture, those two runner-up spots may have been tinged commercially and based on what United won rather than Beckham’s individual contribution but hey, Rivaldo and Luis Figo weren’t exactly slouches.
Still his influence over the world game has been long lasting. He was the first truly global pop star of football. He brought glamour and publicity to the sport in a way that no one has yet emulated.
He became an ambassador on par with the likes of Sir Bobby Charlton and Pele. And most importantly, and let’s not forget this, he was also a winner.
One could say that Beckhamania was waning. However, judging by the response he received from the Red Devils faithful on Wednesday night and the receptions he commanded at Wembley Stadium while representing England, he was still held in high regard.
Limping and then being carried away on a stretcher from that temple that is the San Siro would not have been the way Beckham would’ve chosen to go but very few of us get to decide our final exit.
If there is a spirit that watches over football, Rooney’s exit will not be for many years because he is becoming the perfect successor to Beckham.
Consider that both came from humble beginnings; Beckham from Leytonstone, Rooney from Croxteth. Both made their club names at Manchester United winning Premiership and Champions League titles and both have suffered the agony of World Cup injury (2002 and 2006) and World Cup shame, Beckham versus Argentina (1998) and Rooney against Portugal (2006).
Okay, Rooney may never be a pin-up and he may never be a marketing machine like Beckham but you can’t tell me that over the last 12 months there has been a change in his personality.
Yes, he’s still a raging inferno but it seems more controlled, more managed. It’s as though he knows that true greatness, footballing immortality, is just around the corner.
He’s realized that he is the sum of parts and that he has the ability to change matches single handedly. As much as we all admired Beckham, you can count the games that he won on one hand. With Rooney you’ve run out of digits already.
If the next few months pan out the way I expect them too, Rooney will emulate everything Beckham achieved bar playing abroad by the age of 25.
He’ll be a two-time UEFA Champions League winner, he’ll be a World Champion and he’ll be crowned the FIFA World Player of the Year.