After England’s elimination from the 2014 World Cup, most fans assumed that Wayne Rooney would be back again in 2018.
Although the early signs of his Manchester United decline were apparent, the forward was considered something of a staple in the Three Lions set-up and inherited the captain’s armband when Steven Gerrard retired.
Fast forward four years, though, and the thought of Rooney rubbing shoulders with Jesse Lingard and Raheem Sterling in the England attack feels strange.
The 32-year-old had initially planned to retire from international football after the 2018 World Cup, but fast-tracked his decision to the summer of 2017 after rejecting a recall from Gareth Southgate.
That very summer saw Rooney end his iconic Manchester United spell and return to Everton, a reunion that started so well but finished in disappointment.
ROONEY WATCHING THE WORLD CUP IN AMERICA
In the end, Rooney’s career journey saw him watching England reach the semi-finals in Russia from the unexpected location of Washington D.C.
While you can’t exactly blame him, Rooney has started to unwind his career in the MLS somewhat prematurely yet he still kept an eye on his former England teammates.
He confirmed that fact in a recent interview with ESPN and amid all his glowing praise for Southgate’s men, he couldn’t help singling out Jordan Henderson for praise.
ROONEY’S PRAISE FOR HENDERSON
As he listed the players and gave due props, he had some special words for the Liverpool captain.
“Jordan Henderson has excelled as Liverpool captain, helping them to the Champions League final,” Rooney noted on ESPN’s official YouTube channel.
“And I actually thought he was England’s best player throughout the World Cup.”
That’s no small statement considering the performances of Jordan Pickford and Harry Maguire amongst others.
And it’s a comment that will earn him some rare praise amongst Liverpool supporters, a fanbase he has done little to appeal to with spells at both United and Everton.
Nevertheless, there’s certainly substance in the argument that Henderson was England’s star performer even with his subpar performance against Croatia.
He proved many of his doubters wrong with brilliant showings from midfield, proving the engine of Southgate’s side across the competition.
Rooney certainly thought so, even if he skated over his reasoning.
The 32-year-old will get his MLS career underway on Sunday against the Vancouver Whitecaps as he looks to enjoy as much success in America as England target going forward.