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Rooney, not Messi, should be dumped on international scrapheap logo 28-06-2016

He blasted his way onto the international scene in 2003 at the age of just 17 as England’s great white hope, and to begin with he really did threaten to become one of the best players the country has ever produced.

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But as Wayne Rooney arrives back home on Tuesday as the captain of a side so royally embarrassed by Iceland at Euro 2016, he looks set to go down as just the latest player who never quite delivered in tournament football. The humble thing to do would be to accept it, retire from the international game, and move on. If Lionel Messi can do it, Rooney sure can.

This was a key moment in Rooney’s England career, make no mistake about it. Having failed to rediscover his four-goal form of Euro 2004 at any of the next four major competitions in which he had participated, this was his chance to turn in a memorable string of performances and prove that he still has something to offer to the cause.

But playing as a midfielder once more, he turned in a display which simply reminded everyone that the major reason for his redeployment was his fading qualities in the final third rather than his raft of attributes in the engine room.

“I said before the tournament I’m proud to play for England, I’m interested and excited to see who the next manager is and if selected I’m available to play,” he said in the mixed zone after the 2-1 defeat, but it will be a huge surprise if Roy Hodgson’s successor decides that a 32-year-old Rooney playing in midfield at the next World Cup is an appealing proposition.

It is hard not to draw a parallel of some sort between Rooney and Messi given that both experienced international heartbreak within the space of 24 hours. But Messi has come so close to achieving something special with Argentina on four separate occasions and has seemingly thrown in the towel in sheer despair at always falling inches short of the finish line. Rooney, on the other hand, has never come close to winning anything with England and is never likely to.

But whereas Messi has admitted the penalty defeat to Chile in the Copa America Centenario final was one kick in the guts too many, Rooney seems to have his heart set on going through the motions a little longer with England. Quite why is anybody’s guess.

Yes, it is clearly an honour to pull on the shirt of your country as he has done 115 times. True, he continues to rack up goals, with 13 of his record 53 England strikes having come in the two years since World Cup elimination in Brazil. But realistically, he is quickly running out of useful weapons at this level and nobody should know that better than himself.

As he bumbled around with the ball somewhere near his feet in the second half, looking panicked every time he had to play a pass with an Iceland player within five yards of it, it was difficult to think of any reasons to continue with Rooney in the England team. And over the next few years it will only get harder to justify his inclusion.

Originally selected for his heavyweight qualities in the final third, he is now a lightweight in a sorrowful-looking England midfield which needs a significant overhaul. The right thing for Rooney to do would be to fall on his sword and save the new manager the trouble of dropping him.

His inclusion in Hodgson’s Euro 2016 squad was definitely justifiable given the lack of experience on show elsewhere on the field. But by the team many of these same players have another tilt at a major title in Russia two years from now, Rooney will be 14 years removed from his last truly convincing performance in a finals tournament. He promised so much, and his goals record may take a long time to overhaul, but he has ultimately fallen short of the mark.

While it is a real shame for international football that Messi is no longer in the picture, the same will not be said of Rooney when he goes. And that is why his retirement at this level should come sooner rather than later.

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