What's next for Rooney after England snub?

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Out in the cold: Rooney hasn't featured regularly.

When the England squad for Wednesday’s friendly against Germany and Sunday’s World Cup 2018 qualifier against Lithuania was announced last week, the talking points centered around Jermain Defoe’s recall at the age of 34, Theo Walcott being dropped on his birthday, and the promising talents like James Ward-Prowse, Nathan Redmond, and Jake Livermore getting their first call-ups.

The fact there were no screaming headlines about national team captain and England’s all-time leading goalscorer not being selected speaks volumes about how far Wayne Rooney has fallen.

And it wasn’t a question of injury – the 31-year-old was declared fit to play a part in Gareth Southgate’s squad.

It has been a curious season for Rooney. The striker went past Sir Bobby Charlton to become Manchester United’s record goalscorer, just over a year after achieving the feat at international level.

That particular goal was a crucial one, an injury-time leveller at Stoke City, but it’s one of the few times this season that the former Everton man has had a significant influence on the outcome of a game.

Rooney has a manager who, not too long ago, coveted him so much that he gave serious consideration to moving to Chelsea to play under Jose Mourinho. But with Mourinho having recruited Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Manchester United and surprisingly placed his trust in players like Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial, despite not being known for his faith in youth, Rooney has fallen down the pecking order.

His reduced playing time at club level has promptly led to his exclusion from the England squad, and there are signs that the Wayne Rooney era of English football is coming to an end.

So where does he go from here?

Rumours have been bounded about since January that this could be Rooney’s last season at Old Trafford, with a move to another Premier League club and transfers to either the MLS or the Chinese Super League being mooted.

There have even been suggestions that United, who once made Rooney the most expensive teenager in football, could let their captain return to his boyhood Blues on a free transfer.

If Rooney’s goal is simply more playing time, then any one of these moves makes sense. Even if Ibrahimovic doesn’t stay at Old Trafford beyond this summer, Mourinho will surely buy at least one more attacking player while also looking to further the development of Rashford and Martial. With that in mind, Rooney will definitely get more minutes at Everton, West Ham, or whichever Premier League club wants to sign him, and he’d be a headline attraction in China or America.

But a move to the Chinese Super League or the MLS would almost certainly guarantee that his international career is over, and for a man desperate to play in one final World Cup, that would be a bitter pill to swallow. Staying in the Premier League would be the safest bet if he wants to earn an England recall.

The hardest option, but the one that would be the most rewarding? Stay at Manchester United.

Consult Ryan Giggs on how to go from precocious, explosive teenager to revered veteran playing at the highest level into his 40s.

Fight for a place at a club that will likely be competing for top honours again. Wear the captain’s armband while hopefully lifting either the Premier League or Champions League trophy. Find the form to knock down Gareth Southgate’s door demanding a place in the England squad for the World Cup.

Wayne Rooney was always known for playing with hunger, with desire, with a fire in his belly. Does he have the stomach for one last fight?

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From Podolski to Beckham - 10 footballing farewells

Sport360 staff 23/03/2017
Which one brought a tear to your eye?

Who said footballers don’t care?

Reaching the end of your playing career, signing off from the international scene or leaving your boyhood club is an emotional experience.

For most players, a life beyond football and what they love doing the most is incomprehensible.

These top 10 stars all ended respective parts of their careers in different ways.

Share with us your thoughts by commenting below, using #360fans on Twitter or getting in touch via Facebook.

LUKAS PODOLSKI

The 31-year-old ended his international career in perfect style on Wednesday night as he netted the winner for Germany against England.

It was a truly stunning strike to round-off a stellar international CV which yielded 130 caps, 49 goals and of course a World Cup trophy back in 2014.

IKER CASILLAS

Many people thought the Spaniard would spend his entire career with Real Madrid but after 25 years at Los Blancos, and following rumours of fall-outs with the club’s management, Casillas left the Santiago Bernabeu.

Club president Florentino Perez granted the goalkeeper a farewell press conference and the Madrid legend broke down in tears before moving to Porto in July 2015.

XAVI

The Barcelona legend brought down the curtain on a truly amazing career in stunning style – helping the Catalan giants win the Champions League against Juventus.

The midfield maestro entered the fray late on for what was his 767th appearance for the club.

Xavi won 25 trophies in 17 seasons at the Nou Camp.

DAVID BECKHAM

Back in May 2013, the former England captain brought down the curtain on a magnificent career.

Playing for Paris Saint-Germain, Beckham was substituted with just a few minutes to go in his final football match.

Becks couldn’t hold back the tears as he received a standing ovation walking off the pitch.

ALESSANDRO DEL PIERO

The ultimate one-club man, Del Piero is without doubt the Turin club’s greatest-ever player.

He holds the record for most goals (290) and most appearances (705), spending 19 seasons with Juventus before moving to Sydney FC in Australia to wind down his career in the summer of 2012.

His final appearance for Juve came during the Coppa Italia Final against Napoli – and predictably – he received a standing ovation after being substituted in the second-half.

BASTIAN SCHWEINSTEIGER

In September 2016, Bastian Schweinsteiger gave an emotional speech to fans and cried ahead of his final international appearance for Germany against Finland.

The midfielder struggled to keep his emotions in check as fans paid tribute to the service he had given the country.

STEVEN GERRARD

Gerrard’s final match for Liverpool was actually against Stoke City, in which he scored, in May 2015.

But the talismanic Kop skipper’s proper send-off was the weekend before as the Reds were defeated at home by Crystal Palace.

However, the result was more than secondary on the day as Gerrard received a rapturous reception and send-off by the Anfield faithful before he moved to LA Galaxy.

RAUL

The modern-day Real Madrid icon was given a remarkable send-off in a tribute game in the summer of 2013.

Raul left the Bernabeu at the end of the 2009-10 campaign, joining Schalke – before signing for Al Sadd in May 2012.

Madrid paid tribute to their most capped player in the annual Santiago Bernabeu Trophy match (against Al Sadd), in which Raul played a half for each team (and obviously ended up scoring for Madrid!)

DUNCAN FERGUSON

The legendary Everton striker ended his Goodison Park career with a goal – converting the rebound from his missed penalty – to secure a 2-2 draw against West Brom in May 2006.

Ferguson is now part of Ronald Koeman’s coaching staff with the Toffees.

MATT LE TISSIER

The script was well and truly written for the Southampton legend to finish his extraordinary career with the Red and Whites on the ultimate high.

During the final match of the of the 2000-01 season and last fixture to ever be played at the club’s Dell Ground – ‘Le God’ thumped home a left-footed strike into the top corner to defeat Arsenal.

Although it wasn’t his last appearance for the club, it was his last goal, and is seen as the finale to a remarkable journey with the Saints.

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Where it went wrong for Basti at United

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Off to the States: Schweinsteiger.

German midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger is set to finally play football regularly again, with the 32-year-old agreeing to a deal with MLS side Chicago Fire.

While he became a legendary figure at Bayern Munich, his spell at Manchester United produced few of the moments that saw him become regarded as one of the best midfielders in world football.

Here are five reasons it all went wrong for Schweinsteiger at Manchester United.

Injuries and fitness issues

In his short spell at Old Trafford, Schweinsteiger made only 18 Premier League appearances. Even accounting for the games he could have played in had Jose Mourinho been willing to select him, that’s hardly a stellar record. Indeed, he was unavailable for selection over his last few weeks at the Red Devils due to another minor injury.

The warning signs were there for Manchester United. When Bayern Munich sold Schweinsteiger to the English club, there were already murmurs that then-Bayern manager Pep Guardiola had doubts about the midfielder’s long-term fitness.

Drop in form

Arguably, even when Schweinsteiger was fit, he rarely produced the quality that had made him a mainstay at Bayern Munich. Yes, there were glimpses of his ability – his passing range, his control over a game’s tempo, his calm presence – but he was no longer a consistently world-class player in the Premier League.

It didn’t help that in Michael Carrick, United had a midfielder with a similar style of play. Louis van Gaal experimented with playing the duo together at times, but doing so meant sacrificing pace and dynamism in the middle of the park.

Lack of mobility

There was a moment at Euro 2016 when Schweinsteiger, introduced as a late substitute, produced a lung-bursting run to get on the end of Mesut Ozil’s cross and score a crucial second goal against Ukraine. While he went on similar runs at Manchester United, it was clear that overall, he was no longer mobile enough to compete week-in, week-out in the English top flight.

Arsenal’s 3-0 win over United in 2015 was a prime example. Schweinsteiger was assigned the task of picking up Santi Cazorla, but the wily Spaniard constantly pulled Schweinsteiger out of position, allowing his teammates to overrun the United midfield.

Jose Mourinho

It’s telling that two of the pre-eminent coaches of this era both deemed Schweinsteiger no longer good enough for their teams. Pep Guardiola allowed the German to be sold to United, and when Mourinho arrived at Old Trafford he immediately told Schweinsteiger that the midfielder wouldn’t be part of the first team.

It is to Schweinsteiger’s credit that he stuck to his task for the next few months, training diligently with the reserves in an ultimately successful bid to force his way back into the squad. But Mourinho’s decision proved to be the death knell for Schweinsteiger’s time at United.

Commitment to the cause

There were times when Schweinsteiger’s posts on social media cheering for Manchester United were viewed by fans almost with a sense of sorrow, as he appeared to be the consummate professional dedicated to the team despite his manager refusing to select him. However, behind the scenes, there were rumblings that other players felt differently about the legendary midfielder.

His jet-setting ways during injury layoffs, when he took trips to support his partner Ana Ivanovic at her tennis tournaments, were reportedly not received well by his Manchester United teammates, who felt he would have been better served by getting his head down and focusing on recovering to full fitness.

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