Whether or not he is bound for the Nou Camp in the near future, Ronald Koeman has created an Everton side with plenty of character and determination. The rediscovered team ethic, which was so sadly lacking in his predecessor’s final weeks at Goodison Park, has come as a huge fillip to Evertonians.
Everton’s recent unbeaten run came to an end at Tottenham on Sunday. Whilst there is no shame in losing to a better side on the road, Tottenham looked nothing special.
Once more, it was a case of Everton’s mysterious inferiority complex at certain grounds which proved terminally influential.
Though it would be easy to use terms such as “inferiority complex”, it is often the case that Everton simply lack leadership and motivation when facing heavyweight opponents on hostile turf.
A case in hand is the Anfield derby, which has been a return fixture thirteen times in the last fourteen seasons. Subsequently, on many occasions, Everton have gone to Anfield with safety already assured, and not felt compelled to meet the required standard.
What Koeman’s side desperately needs for these occasions is a born winner, and an Evertonian at heart. With Wayne Rooney set to leave Old Trafford this summer, it’s time to bring the boy home.
Wayne Rooney – Once a blue…
Over the past several days, various reports have emerged regarding Rooney’s next potential destination. After Rooney’s omission from the side due to face FK Rostov on Thursday, speculation has heated up drastically. Most prominently, Samuel Lovett, of the Independent has written:
Although Rooney’s contract runs out in 2019, United are allegedly prepared to let him walk away this summer. […] Everton boss Ronald Koeman opened the door to Rooney earlier this week, insisting the forward would be more than welcome to return to Goodison Park.
– 3rd March 2017
Understandably, Evertonian reactions have been mixed. Yet, even in his fleeting appearance for Everton during Duncan Ferguson’s 2015 testimonial against Villarreal, Rooney outperformed every other player on the park.
There were no points at stake, but that didn’t matter to Rooney.
For his part, the likely lad from Toxteth looked every inch the young upstart who feared nobody. That day, he was again the boy hero who ended Arsenal’s 30-match unbeaten run. Or the blue bolt, who once terrorised players ten years his senior, and broke Everton’s 51-year winless streak at Elland Road.
No explanation needed
It makes perfect sense for Rooney to return to Goodison, since not every game will suit Koeman’s preferred 3-5-2 system. For several years now, Everton have lacked a Berkgamp-style player, who could provide a focal point for attacks down the centre from deep. Such a player could also act as a foil to an at times overworked Romelu Lukaku.
Psychologically at least, signing Rooney would also give Everton a greater sense of purpose against high defensive lines – like Tottenham’s.
Will the empire strike back?
Nobody is explicitly ruling out China as a possible destination for Rooney just yet. However, the world’s greatest pundit, none other than Manchester United legend Gary Neville, has argued against such a move.
Gary Neville on Wayne Rooney: “The speculation of him going to China, the timing seemed strange. There’s games to play, medals to play for.” pic.twitter.com/NSGZMFzYRC
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) March 4, 2017
While Rooney is undoubtedly a born winner, the time must come soon, Mr Neville.
Speculation linking Rooney to China is not entirely without justification. With a greater learning mentality amongst Chinese players in a newly-rich Super League, Rooney would have the ability to move much more smoothly into coaching – and later, management if he so desired.
However, it is difficult to envisage Rooney standing patiently on the touchlines anywhere. Ultimately, Everton’s status as odds-on favourite to be his next club comes as no surprise.
Quite simply, Wayne Rooney plays football. That is what he does, and what he has done since learning to walk the mean streets of Toxteth.
Rooney has become something of an off-the-bench goalscorer, these days. But how does the England captain compare to the Premier League’s greatest super subs?