Wayne Rooney is going through a tough time right now. Manchester United are playing dull, uninspiring football and their talisman is looking every second of his 30 years. The Red Devils skipper appears to be on the brink as fans and pundits alike can see a player on the steep decline. Gone are the goals, assists and burning desire that made him a household name as a 16-year old.
All of the greats have their moment where the body cannot do what the mind is telling it to do. From Kobe Bryant to Brett Favre and Michal Jordan, time waits for no man because for all the talent, younger and hungrier athletes are waiting in the wings to pounce. The United and England leader has been usurped by dozens from the next generation, including Jamie Vardy, Ross Barkley, Harry Kane, Theo Walcott and many, many more.
Somehow Rooney is still seen as the savior for club and country by numerous observers. They view his record and believe that his past deeds make him an immoveable object. The way he’s moving around the field these days he does look immoveable, but not for the reasons his sympathizers would want you to think.
Rooney’s been slammed by former teammate Roy Keane for getting involved in the WWE, lampooned for getting caught with a grandmother prostitute, losing his hair and laughed at for getting knocked out at home by Phil Bardsley. But for all the troughs throughout a career glittered with many peaks, the truth of the matter is Wayne Rooney is a shadow of the man who graced the English Premier League some 14 seasons ago.
These are the top 25 Premier League players better than Wayne Rooney right now.
25 Dimitri Payet
Payet is a classic case of being a big fish in France and translating that talent and ability to the EPL. It’s no surprise he has lit up England’s football pitches and Payet’s injury came at a terrible time for the Hammers. Since his transfer from Marseille in the off season, his 12 appearances have yielded 5 goals and 3 assists, a tremendous strike rate which easily surpasses the efforts of Wayne Rooney. At 28 United could do a lot worse than bring him in as the team’s playmaker in January if he regains fitness.
24 Odion Ighalo
After all the buzz about this team, it was expected that the honeymoon would end and normality would resume for the promoted side. Then they went to Stamford Bridge against a revitalized Chelsea team to earn a 2-2 draw, where that man Ighalo scored again! The Nigerian has a strike rate of 2 goals every 3 games, a remarkable effort for a guy playing in a team that doesn’t dominate matches. United would kill to have the 26-year old on their books.
23 Bojan Krkic
If United were canny enough, they would be the ones picking up Krkic rather than Stoke City. The former Ajax, Roma and Barcelona playmaker has the versatility to play up front, out wide or behind the lines and his performance for the Potters against the Red Devils on Boxing Day demonstrated why that club is surpassing expectations. United are falling horribly short of theirs, but they could make up for lost time by submitting a bid for the lively Bojan.
22 Romelu Lukaku
Dominate, aggressive and ruthless – the ingredients of a quality striker. This 22-year old Belgian has all the tools to become a global superstar and Everton are reaping all the rewards since his sale from Chelsea became permanent. During the days of Rooney and Ronaldo, United never had problems finding the back of the net. Now it’s the smaller clubs who are doing it comfortably, one of them being Rooney’s former employers.
21 Yannick Bolasie
Crystal Palace are going places with manager Alan Pardew creating a side full of pace and direct running. The best asset of this game plan is Yannick Bolasie, a Congolese international who runs at fullbacks without fear. This is a part of Rooney’s game which has left him with dramatic consequences. The United skipper used to take on defenders with abandon, but with the weight of the world on his shoulders he now plays with doubt and hesitation. An element of that is a lack of confidence in his teammates, another part of it is the aging process catching up with him.
20 Theo Walcott
Similar in size, but not in stature. Theo Walcott’s versatility as either a front man or wide right winger makes him a weapon at EPL and international level, making him an asset Roy Hodgson and Arsene Wenger cannot do without. The quality might not always be there from the Gunner, but when it shows it’s absolutely devastating for defenders. Rooney has more God-given skill, yet no one would consider the United veteran a better bet at this point in their careers.
19 Raheem Sterling
There are more parallels between Rooney and Raheem than first thought. Both men developed in the city of Liverpool, both becoming figures of ridicule and derision for their clubs before moving to Manchester in big money moves. These England internationals are at very different bookends of their careers. Sterling could become anything with his pace and creativity in the final third, while Rooney struggles for relevance. They might also be fighting it out for an England spot come Euro 2016.
18 Troy Deeney
The best captains lead by example. Watford’s form in the EPL this campaign is in no due part to their skipper Troy Deeney, a man whose recovered from a stint in jail to take the Hornets to the edge of European qualification. Under Spanish manager Flores, Deeney has taken to the behind-the-striker role to perfection, creating and scoring goals with Ighalo for fun. Big clubs snub British players from the lower leagues, but United could learn a lot from the clubs that branch out the way Watford have.
17 Ross Barkley
Wayne Rooney version 2.0 isn’t as good as the original at the same time but put them side-by-side now and it isn’t even close. Barkley’s 6 goals and 6 assists for the Toffees has him in prime position to take the England number 10 spot away from Rooney as the fellow Merseyside boy is performing consistently game in and game out for Everton. They come from the same city, the same club and play in the exact same position, but they could not be in any more of a different place. If you’re Manchester United you’re buying Barkley stock and cutting your losses with Rooney.
16 Salomon Rondon
West Bromwich Albion is an ordinary soccer team. They go out not to lose as opposed to winning, stifling opposition sides into the ground before edging a goal on the break. If that scenario does play out, then Salomon Rondon is likely to be the key architect. He only has one goal more than Rooney this season, but his work ethic and pressing from the front couldn’t be more of a contrast to the Red Devils skipper. Will never have the skill of Rooney, yet this Baggies big man is more of an asset as things stand.
15 Daniel Sturridge
Daniel Sturridge is in fitness purgatory, always swerving between the line of ‘good enough to play’ and ‘needs a rest.’ When he does grace the park, there isn’t a more deadly striker in the league. 37 goals in 60 appearances for the 26-year old says that the English international would get the nod over Rooney if he was available for the selection. The bad news for England fans is that he isn’t and Wayne is. If Jürgen Klopp can get him up and running then it won’t be a matter of whether Sturridge can become a better player than Rooney, but by how far he can surpass the man.
14 David Silva
Silky Silva is a joy to watch when he’s fit and in form. City have based their two title success in the past four years on this man, playing him in the number 10 role behind Aguero to reek havoc in the Premier League. While Manchester United long for the days of playing teams off the park, City are out there doing it with Silva pulling the strings and dictating the tempo at every opportunity. The Spaniard is the key cog for City regardless of who else they sign.
13 Georginio Wijnaldum
Newcastle United are a bad football team. There’s no getting around it, they lack star power, creativity and solidity to escape the drop zone. The Jordie’s could easily get relegated this season but if they do, it won’t be because of their Dutch playmaker Georginio Wijnaldum. He is everything Newcastle are not, coming in from Holland in the off-season to give the black and whites something different in the middle of the park. United could do a lot worse than bring him in from the North East.
12 Xherdan Shaqiri
Small, agile, aggressive and a pain to defenders. Swiss Stoke star Xherdan Shaqiri is doing everything Rooney is not this season, cutting in from the right flank with ease on his left foot to catapult Stoke City into the new continental outfit they’ve transformed into since the days of Tony Pulis. Having been shafted by Bayern Munich and Inter Milan, many predicted Shaqiri’s next move would be to another big club, perhaps even United. How they could do with his direct play now.
11 Anthony Martial
It speaks volumes for Manchester United’s current predicament that a 19-year old French youngster brought in from Monaco is the go-to man at Old Trafford. The Red Devils splurged millions of pounds on the kid and while he enjoyed a great start in the team, the goals have dried up. Yet any of the good play in the opposing box for United now will probably involve Martial and not Rooney. Manager Louis Van Gaal isn’t utilizing his strengths at the moment but if he’s given a role up front then he’ll kick on to be a great acquisition.
10 Olivier Giroud
Big ego playing for a big club, sound familiar? Olivier Giroud has never enjoyed the fanfare Wayne Rooney has, you’ll never see him grace the cover of FIFA for example. Yet the French international is a mainstay with Arsenal and his goals this season have become invaluable to the Gunners bid at the 2015/16 title. Holding the ball and leading the line is the most important aspect of a striker in modern football, something which Rooney should look to emulate.
9 Philippe Coutinho
The American owners of Liverpool haven’t got a lot right down the years. From Charlie Adam to Andy Carroll, a host of big money flops have come in and gone out without making an impact in the league. Yet throughout this rebuilding period, one guy has stuck around and lifted the performance of the team – Philippe Coutinho. Since his arrival from Inter Milan, the Brazilian livewire has created havoc for defenses with his decisive runs behind the lines. Another guy in red used to do that too, remember?
8 Yaya Toure
If City are to win anything this season, it will be down to the efforts of their Ivorian pillar in midfield. Yaya might be 2 years Rooney’s senior, but when he is on song no one else can dictate a game like the imposing Toure. His performance against Arsenal was Yaya to a dime – strolling around the field for 75 minutes until he guided a pass into the top corner before bossing the end of the game. People doubt his desire but not his ability, whereas people doubt both for Rooney these days.
7 Kevin de Bruyne
The Belgium international offers Manchester City so much from the wide right position. Alternating with David Silva and Raheem Sterling behind the striker, de Bruyne drifts inside with devastating attacking runs that has defenses not sure if they’re going backward and forward. It wasn’t that long ago that Manchester United were picking these young stars up from Germany and leaving other EPL clubs to lick their wounds. Now they’re holding onto past glories and relying on Wayne Rooney to recapture his form.
6 Alexis Sanchez
Rooney and Sanchez are obsessed with playing soccer, the problem for the former is that only one of them are capable of doing it well consistently. The Chilean superstar is out injured at the moment, but given his schedule over the past 12 months that isn’t a surprise to anyone. Since finishing the 2014/15 campaign Sanchez went on a flight to his home nation where he lead Chile to the 2015 Copa America title before going straight back into another EPL season. Speed, goals, assists – all things Rooney used to do.
5 Harry Kane
When Roy Hodgson picks his team for the 2016 European Championships, he’ll have a lot to think about. How will the defense shape up? Does he have the right mix in midfield? But it’s up front where really there should be complete clarity with Harry Kane in this type of form. The 22-year old is banking goals like they’re going out of fashion and he’s playing as well as Rooney ever did in his goal scoring prime at United. Kane has been linked with a move to United in the past, but the longer they wait, the more zeros will need to be added to the contract.
4 Jamie Vardy
Once upon a time Wayne Rooney had the searing speed to destroy opposition defenses. During his younger years as a teenager, no one could stop him because he was harassing and running for 90 minutes non-stop. That is now Jamie Vardy. The slender Leicester number 9 doesn’t know how to slow down and the rate of return for his goals is getting absurd. Question marks remain if Vardy could replicate this form for a bigger team who enjoy more possession, but the attributes he’s showing now make him a supreme player.
3 Sergio Aguero
On form the Argentine is the best number 9 in the game. Aguero’s injuries are a continual worry for Manchester City but the blue half of the city has a man they can bank on. 85 goals in 129 starts for the Citizens is a tremendous strike rate, something which was never a concern when he transferred from Atletico Madrid in 2011. City would give him to United over their dead body so rule that out. Aside from the dubious fitness record there is no comparison between City’s main man and United’s once great striker.
2 Riyad Mahrez
The rise of Riyad Mahrez is nothing short of astonishing. 2nd division football was where Leicester City picked him up from in La Havre. Mahrez looked too short and weak to make it in England because the ferocity of the matches come thick and fast. It hasn’t worried the Algerian and if United had anything about them they would launch a bid in January for his services. Right now he has everything that Wayne Rooney lacks – pace, direct running, goals, assists and a killer attitude to get better.
1 Mesut Ozil
Forget the fairytale at Leicester City with Mahrez and Vardy, that’s a distraction from the real superstar in the league right now. The German international has recaptured his form with the national team and his time at Real Madrid to become the assist king in European football. Once upon a time Wayne Rooney was the man involved in United’s goals, either putting the ball in the back of the net himself or putting in the pass that lead to it. Now it’s the Arsenal number 10, laying off the killer balls for Giroud, Walcott and co to put away. The most valuable player in the league by a country mile.