It started with a high, but will end with a low: Wayne Rooney’s return to Everton has fallen short of expectations.
In the heady days of August, it appeared as if bringing the prodigal son back to Goodison Park had been a stroke of genius. A goal on his second debut secured a 1-0 win over Stoke City on the opening day. Nine more league goals followed up until the end of December to make him Everton’s top goalscorer. One was a strike against his old enemy Manchester City, another a penalty to secure a point against the Blues’ old enemy Liverpool. Three others, including a goal of the season contender, were plundered against West Ham United.
A sharp drop since December
Despite the Toffees’ struggles, Rooney could consider himself as having a decent season. He was well established in Everton’s midfield, their top goalscorer, and playing some of his best football in years. He will end the season as top goalscorer, but the other two things are now far from true.
Rooney has not managed a goal or an assist since the 18th December and has looked far off the pace for months. Under Sam Allardyce he has become more of a bit part player than the key man he envisioned he would be.
A move to MLS is now on the cards and nary an eyelid has been batted. Unlike his departure to Manchester United, there will not be tears should this move be completed as expected. Similar to that situation, though, it is a move that makes sense for all parties once again. DC United will get a star name that can attract the kind of global audience, including in America, that they could not have dreamed of previously. They will have to pay big in terms of his wages, and relatively big in transfer fees, but the exposure they will gain and the money they will make courtesy of brand Rooney far outweighs the negatives.
Everton, meanwhile, offload a player on high wages who has not offered what they were hoping on the pitch. Rooney will finish the campaign as top goalscorer but he has struggled considerably since that last good performance against Swansea. Since that 3-1 win he has added neither a goal nor an assist to his tally while he has only managed more than two key passes in three of his 12 appearances. As a creative player, he has been non-existent.
The perfect tonic after a long slog
Indeed, he has often looked like a passenger, left trailing after younger, fitter but less talented players in most games. As the old saying goes, the legs have gone. In truth, Everton have often looked better off without him.
These performances have made it hard to not only justify the wages he is being paid but giving Rooney any sort of starting role in the team. Should Allardyce be replaced as expected in the summer that would continue to be a problem, even more so if the new manager is one like Marco Silva or Paulo Fonseca who prefers a high intensity pressing style.
Rooney himself will know as much, he is a man stuck between a rock and a hard place. If Allardyce goes a new manager is unlikely to build around him and give him the role he wants. He will not get that if Allardyce stays either.
The MLS option provides him with the perfect opportunity to not only be the star man in a team once more but also a financial payday to end his career on. He will not reach the highs of the past but at this stage of his career the 32-year-old must think of the future and DC United are giving him the chance to not only secure it but also end his playing days on the pitch rather than watching from the sidelines.
It is also an offer of something fresh and exciting, the perfect tonic after the slog that has been this season at Goodison Park. Leaving Everton after a year is not how he would have dreamed his return would end at this time last year but in truth it is a move that suits all parties. Sometimes football just doesn’t comply to the fairy-tale.