Wayne Rooney Makes MLS Bow, Amid Golden Era of Strikers

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DC United player Wayne Rooney speaks during a press conference at a Digital Assets & Audi Field ribbon cutting ceremony on July 9, 2018 in Washington,DC. - United hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony and housewarming party to celebrate the opening of their new state-of-the-art and soccer-specific stadium at Audi Field. (Photo by Gilles CLARENNE / AFP) (Photo credit should read GILLES CLARENNE/AFP/Getty Images)

Editorial (July 13, 2018) – It wasn’t exactly a Lebron James-type decision, but there was plenty of excitement when Wayne Rooney decided to join D.C. United. He will make his debut for Ben Olsen’s team on July 14, with plenty of ‘green’ fans expected to make the trip to Audi Field to see what all the fuss is about.

Wayne Rooney Makes MLS Bow, Amid Golden Era of Strikers

The truth is, however, there is very little fuss around the 32-year-old these days, certainly in his native England. He is respected, of course, but most fans think of Rooney and consider what might have been. He was a great player for club and country, but he could have been one of the true great players of the modern era. It seems Rooney fast-tracked from vast potential to nearly-finished in the blink of an eye.

Rooney surrounded by better players in recent years

People will point to his eleven goals for Everton, a struggling side, as proof that Rooney is still capable of hitting the back of the net. That, of course, was never in doubt. But Rooney still just hit the same number of goals as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, a player who only made 13 appearances for Arsenal. Rooney made 40 appearances in an Everton shirt last season. And, that’s the point about Rooney, the modern Rooney. He is still good. Capable of moments of genius at times, too. He will undoubtedly have a few Zlatan-esque moments in big games in MLS.

However, it is the competition around him – in the elite levels of world football – where Rooney can no longer hold his head with the rest. Indeed, it’s hard to frame thing in the context of contemporary sport, but it feels like we are living in a golden era of strikers. A time when goal scoring is in fashion again.

Golden Boot shows Premier League’s strength

Looking, for example, at the odds for the contenders for the Golden Boot in the Premier League – an accolade that Rooney never won, despite his 2018 EPL goals – shows what he was up against: Harry Kane (2/1, odds from BetStars), Mo Salah (9/2), Sergio Aguero (13/2), Romelu Lukaku (8/1) are just some of the main protagonists in the running. You can also see Gabriel Jesus (10/1), Roberto Firmino (25/1), Alexis Sanchez (28/1) in with a shout. A glut of top strikers graces the Premier League and you can use the best UK Free Bets to back them.

Around Europe, the great generation of strikers is even more pronounced. In Italy, Mauro Icardi, Gonzalo Higuain, Ciro Immobile and Paulo Dybala have been plying their trade, with Cristiano Ronaldo possibly joining them. In Spain, Antoine Griezmann, Diego Costa, and Luis Suarez are among the goals. Lionel Messi, while one is not sure whether to call him a striker, is among the greatest forwards in history.

Young stars set to shine in coming years

Out in Germany, we have Robert Lewandowski, in Paris, Neymar and Cavani. That’s all without even mentioning the next great generation: Kyliann Mbappé, Marcus Rashford, Gabriel Jesus. Ousmane Dembélé and Paulinho (not that one). The production line of great strikers looks set to continue.

How would Rooney have operated among these players at his peak? It’s hard to say. During a lot of his career, fans were waiting for ‘it’ to happen. That ‘it’ was for Rooney to take the next step towards greatness. There were moments, for sure: The overhead kick to seal the Derby against Manchester City, half-way line goals, the record-haul of England strikes. But perhaps not enough. MLS should enjoy him though, he can still pull it out of the bag now and then.

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