Jermain Defoe feels Wayne Rooney has retired from England duty with “nothing to prove”.
Rooney called time on his international career last week, informing Gareth Southgate when the Three Lions boss phoned him to say he wanted to recall him to a squad he had not featured in since last November.
The 31-year-old, who left Manchester United to return to his boyhood club Everton over the summer, has 119 caps, more than any other outfield England player, and is his country’s record goalscorer, having netted 53 times.
A common criticism of his England career is that after lighting up the group stage of Euro 2004 as a teenager, Rooney failed to deliver at subsequent major tournaments.
Fellow forward Defoe, who is part of Southgate’s squad for the forthcoming World Cup qualifiers against Malta and Slovakia, has nothing but praise for the former captain.
“He has done so much and has nothing to prove, and that’s for club and country – he has nothing to prove,” Defoe, 34, said of Rooney, who is also United’s record goalscorer.
“I just want to wish him all the best for the future. He’ll be missed.
“As a striker you get judged on scoring goals and to be the record England goalscorer, that is something special.
“From a young age, when he got into the squad, the pressure that was on his shoulders was probably more than for a lot of the boys, which is never easy.
“So to be that consistent for all those years, he deserves a lot of credit.”
Asked what he made of Rooney opting to quit representing England despite being three years younger than Defoe, the Bournemouth frontman said: “Everyone’s different.
“Some players get into their thirties and might feel like they would rather concentrate on club football. Maybe physically they might feel like not playing so much football would help them play better for their clubs.
“There are different players and different reasons. I don’t think the age thing really matters to be honest.”
He added: “It feels strange (that Rooney will no longer be an England player), because I was in the squad with Wayne for a number of years.
“But you have to respect his decision. In terms of international goals and records like that, he is at the top. So in a way you can understand it.
“He has done so much for England. He’s had a great career.”
Defoe, who has scored 20 goals in 57 caps, made a return to former employers over the summer himself when he departed Sunderland following their relegation from the Premier League and joined Bournemouth, the club he spent time on loan with aged 18.
The Cherries have made a poor start to the season, losing each of their opening three top-flight games, but Defoe is “100 per cent” confident they will not be involved in a battle to beat the drop this term.
“It is not going to happen, 100 per cent – not with just how it is there,” Defoe said.
“Since I’ve been there I’ve been so impressed with how hard the boys work, not just on the training pitch but in the gym.
“I think the whole set-up is amazing and that it’s a matter of time before we start getting results. I think, with what I’ve seen since I’ve been there, we’ll be fine.”
Regarding what lies immediately in front of him, with Group F leaders England playing Malta away on Friday before hosting Slovakia three days later, Defoe said: “People expect us to win both games.
“We look at it and feel we should, and that’s what we want to do.
“But at the same time you can’t take any team lightly. You can’t look at the fixtures and think it is an easy game.
“You have to prepare exactly the same, as if you are playing France or Spain or whoever it is, and that is what we are doing.
“We met up on Sunday evening and we are doing everything right, ticking every box, to make sure we get the two wins.”
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