Wayne Rooney’s true worth as a player has not been properly appreciated, according to England football great Gary Lineker.
Rooney has looked rejuvenated since returning to Everton, the club that nurtured his talent when he was a teenager, after becoming an unhappy-looking peripheral figure at Manchester United under Jose Mourinho.
The 31-year-old has scored in both his league appearances for Everton — including Monday’s against Manchester City when he joined Alan Shearer as the only players to score 200 Premier League goals — and has garnered support for a recall to the England squad which will be named on Thursday.
Lineker — who also starred for both Everton and England — said Rooney should figure among the top 10 in British football’s hall of fame.
“He probably is,” Lineker said, referring to whether Rooney is under-appreciated.
“He’d be (one of Britain’s) top 10 ever — he’s had a marvellous career.
“He’s been a great player for English football.”
Lineker, who scored 48 times in his 80 international appearances, said Rooney had too often during his international career carried the burden of being the national side’s only world-class player.
“England went through a time of being bereft of world-class talent — it was just him,” said the 56-year-old, who also starred for Barcelona and Tottenham Hotspur.
“He’s gone to play in tournaments, sometimes not fully fit, sometimes fit, in a team that’s not really good enough, and he’s suffered a little bit from that.”
Lineker, who like Rooney also failed to land a major global trophy with England, said it was a case of what might have been if Rooney had stayed fit at Euro 2004 in Portugal.
Rooney had scored four times in the tournament before he broke a bone in his foot.
“Those of us who remember his early career — he was phenomenal,” said Lineker.
“He did it in Portugal. We might have gone on to win that one if he hadn’t (got injured), we were looking so good.”
Lineker also attributes Rooney’s lack of recognition to partisan football fans.
“Everyone gets a bit under-appreciated because we are a judgemental society but it’s also very tribal, football — if he’s playing for Manchester United, automatically a lot of people would dislike him,” said Lineker.