Contact us

Rooney's Everton homecoming is not without problems

Of course, there are two angles from which to approach Wayne Rooney's return to Everton and everybody knows what they are. 

Sentimentally, it's the kind of symmetry which should prove universally popular. Rooney cast himself as an arch-antagonist through much of his career, so not everyone will wish him well. However, most would concede that there's something seductive in seeing an old boy return home and a charm to watching old wounds heal. 

But there's the other side, too. The actual footballing issue.

The counter-argument to what follows is based on intangibles. Rooney has won five Premier League titles, a Champions League and a century England caps so, even at this point of his career, he's bringing something valuable to Goodison Park. It's repeated so often as to be rather trite, but a player with his CV can hold enormous influence within a squad and, depending on his own attitude as he approaches his twilight years, can be of immeasurable valuable to young, developing players.

That suits Everton. Tom Davies has broken through from their academy, while Jonjoe Kenny and Dominic Calvert-Lewin are threatening to do the same. Given how Rooney sometimes conducted himself in his twenties and his rather laissez-faire attitude towards conditioning and match-preparation, he's perhaps not a role model in the traditional "vitamins, milk, and bed before 10pm" sense, but his achievements still afford him a natural gravitas. Rooney was also one of the finest forwards of his generation and will remain England's record goalscorer for many years to come, so he will presumably have had Calvert-Lewin's attention from the moment he returned to Finch Farm. 

Nevertheless, Everton are at a crossroads and Rooney has arrived back to find them in a very different state. Romelu Lukaku's transfer to Manchester United will be eerily familiar of course, but elsewhere progress and ambition are visible in every direction. A combined £60m has been spent on a new goalkeeper and centre-half, more spending has brought in Davy Klaassen from Ajax, and Sandro Ramirez has arrived from Spain; Ronald Koeman has a lot of new parts and, initially at least, his main task will be to fit them all together.

Within that context, Rooney has rejoined at an inopportune moment. With Everton's improvement potentially threatened by fluidity and flux and half-a-dozen separate wonderings over who will play where, they have recruited the player who, perhaps more than any other in modern British football, will amplify that debate.

Rooney has had a long, drawn out decline and, incontestably, was treated very favourably by Manchester United when it became obvious that his best days were behind him. Louis van Gaal moved him around the pitch, Jose Mourinho briefly did the same before succumbing to the inevitable, and even Roy Hodgson sabotaged his England side to accommodate him; will there be a pressure to do the same at Everton?

Currently, it's a question without an answer. It's possible that Rooney has already accepted a diminished status at Goodison Park and that he'll be entirely happy to perform a part-player, part-cheerleading role now that his medal collection is complete.

On the other hand, though, he's an extraordinarily competitive footballer with an extremely powerful, often disruptive agent. He's 31 rather than 35, so he'll have joined with Premier League minutes in mind. If his expectation is to play over 30 games a season and to be a focal point for this new, improving side, then the future is likely to be more complicated. Not only will that become a fierce topic of debate within the media, but it's potentially a source of tension inside the dressing room, too. If that proves to be the case, this victory lap will come at a cost.  

The situation depends on Rooney's attitude and, as such, nobody can anticipate how this is likely to unfold. Much like Everton's season as a whole, it promises to be one extreme or another: it will either go very well or very badly. 

View all blog posts