England captain Wayne Rooney is on the brink of history in San Marino as he stands one short of Sir Bobby Charlton’s national goals record – and believes he can still emulate the Manchester United legend and win a major international tournament.
Rooney captains England on Saturday knowing victory will secure their place in the Euro 2016 finals in France next summer.
And while the 29-year-old will delight in the personal milestone of eclipsing Charlton’s tally of 49 goals, he insists winning a trophy would give him more pleasure after he missed out with England at Euro 2004 and Euro 2012 as well as in the World Cups in 2006, 2010 and last summer in Brazil.
Still time for record – and England glory
Rooney has had to cope with claims that, even with the goal record, he will never be ranked ahead of Charlton because he, along with his brother Jack, was part of England’s 1966 World Cup team – the only time England have even won the trophy.
He said: “Up to a couple of years ago, people were saying Lional Messi wasn’t as good as Diego Maradona because he hadn’t won the World Cup.
“In my mind, Messi is a better player than Maradona – but that’s how football is.
“It’s about the trophies you win. As a team, that’s how you’re judged. Sir Bobby did that. Hopefully there’s still time for me to be successful like that.”
John Stones set for golden England career
Everton’s elegant 21-year-old defender John Stones will play in San Marino on Saturday after having a transfer request rejected by the Merseyside club following Chelsea’s attempts to lure him to Stamford Bridge with three bids up to £30m.
And England manager Roy Hodgson says he has no worries about his form after the saga.
“I don’t think John Stones requires me to talk to him about it,” said Hodgson.
“He’s been 100% professional and accepted there’s an offer for him from another club, but the club he is under contract to didn’t want to sell him. He will continue to play well for Everton now the window has closed. We believe in him.”
Hodgson added: “John is also more than capable of playing in two positions. Against Switzerland in Basel he played magnificently at right-back when we won 2-0. He’s a centre-back at Everton, where he also plays very well. It’s good to have a player of that type capable of playing in two positions. All I can hope is he continues to impress.”
England warning for Vardy
Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy makes his first start for England against San Marino less than a month after receiving a “substantial” fine and being ordered to undergo diversity training by the club after claims he made a racial slur in a casino.
Video footage emerged of Vardy allegedly abusing a Japanese man and Hodgson revealed the 28-year-old striker had been spoken to by the Football Association hierarchy.
“That was dealt with by Dan Ashworth [FA director of elite development], who took him to one side and spoke to him. I spoke to him. That’s water under the bridge.”