Should Rooney seek his fortune abroad?
Manchester United fans will doubtless be pleased by Wayne Rooney’s latest comments pouring cold, or at least lukewarm water on the idea that he might move to Barcelona, or anywhere else for that matter.
Good news for United it may be, but I’m not so sure it’s in England’s interests for so few of the country’s leading players to try their luck abroad.
Whenever this subject comes up, I can’t help but look to the great strides made by Spain at international level, progress that must have been aided by the far more adventurous attitude taken by some of their players in recent times.
Spain used to have a similar reputation to England in this regard, with virtually everyone happy to stay at home and enjoy the riches available from clubs swimming in cash from huge TV rights deals. Heading into the 1998 World Cup, every member of the Spain squad played for a Spanish club, while four years later Gaizka Mendieta was the only export (and he was about to come home, after confirming a lot of prejudices in a nightmare season with Lazio).
Fast forward to Euro 2008, where a Spanish squad featuring Pepe Reina, Alvaro Arbeloa, Xabi Alonso, Fernando Torres (all Liverpool) and Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal) swept all before them.
Perhaps it’s a coincidence, but I suspect not. In the past, tensions always seemed to rise in the Spanish camp as long tournaments wore on (I covered them at Euro 2000, the 2002 World Cup and at Euro 2004) but last year there was a new confidence about them.
Wouldn’t it be beneficial for England if their better players spent some time abroad, learning new languages, experiencing different cultures and absorbing new ideas?
I’m not specifically talking about Rooney, who I’m sure will go on and achieve even more at United. But would it really be so bad if players like him followed the example of Steve McManaman and David Beckham and tried something different.
PHOTO: Steve McManaman lifts up the European Cup at Madrid’s landmark Cibeles fountain May 25. Real Madrid beat Valencia 3-0 in the Champions League final at the Stade de France in Paris May 24 to secure their eighth European title.