MANCHESTER: Wayne Rooney called time on his often tempestuous international career as he announced his retirement from the England national team on Wednesday, ending a 14-year stint in which he became the country’s top goal-scorer with 53 goals.
Rooney said he had made the decision despite being told by England manager Gareth Southgate that he would be recalled to the squad for next month’s World Cup qualifiers.
The 31-year-old, who leaves as England’s most-capped outfield player with 119 appearances, told Southgate of his decision during a phone conversation on Tuesday.
Southgate had phoned Rooney — who had lost both the captaincy and eventually his place in the squad as he became a peripheral figure under Jose Mourinho at Manchester United last season — to congratulate him on his early season performances for new club Everton.
Rooney has looked rejuvenated and happy — scoring in both their Premier League matches so far — since he re-signed for the club that nurtured his talent as a teenager before he left for United.
“It was great that Gareth Southgate called me this week to tell me he wanted me back in the England squad for the upcoming matches. I really appreciated that,” said Rooney in a statement.
“Having already thought long and hard, I told Gareth that I had now decided to retire for good from international football.
“It is a really tough decision and one I have discussed with my family, my manager at Everton [Ronald Koeman] and those closest to me.
“Playing for England has always been special to me. Every time I was selected as a player or captain was a real privilege and I thank everyone who helped me.
“But I believe now is the time to bow out.”
Rooney, England’s most capped outfield player, said his sole purpose now in football is to ensure Everton win trophies.
On Monday, he became only the second player to score 200 Premier League goals behind another former England striker Alan Shearer.
“Leaving Manchester United was a tough call but I know I made the right decision in coming home to Everton,” said Rooney. “Now I want to focus all my energies on helping them be successful.”
Rooney never progressed beyond the quarter-finals of a tournament with England and his struggles on the international stage often saw him cast as the fall guy for his country’s inability to come close to adding to its solitary title in the 1966 World Cup.
“One of my very few regrets is not to have been part of a successful England tournament side,” Rooney said. “Hopefully the exciting players Gareth is bringing through can take that ambition further and I hope everyone will get behind the team.
“One day the dream will come true and I look forward to being there as a fan or in any capacity.”
Rooney earned his first cap against Australia in 2003 at the age of 17 years and 111 days to become the youngest player, at the time, to represent the national side.
The former England captain has not played for his country since a 3-0 win over Scotland at Wembley last November.
Figures from English football were quick to pay tribute to Rooney.
“Congratulations to @WayneRooney on a magnificent international career. A player’s player,” former England great Gary Linekar said on Twitter.
Greg Clarke, chairman of English football’s governing body the Football Association (FA), said Rooney had earned the right to be termed a “legend”.
“Today marks the end of an era in international football,” said Clarke. “Wayne Rooney is an icon of his generation and an undoubted legend of the game.”
Former England captain Terry Butcher — who captained Lineker in the infamous “Hand of God” 1986 World Cup quarter-final against Argentina — said Rooney had taken the right decision.
“You do know as an international player when you have reached the point of no return,” Butcher told the BBC. “Sometimes you want to jump before you are pushed.”
Former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson, who first called up Rooney in 2003, felt Rooney could play at the highest level with England.
“I think it’s a pity he will miss the next World Cup with England,” Eriksson told broadcaster Sky Sports. “If I was the manager I would try to convince him to delay [his retirement] until after the World Cup … I think England still needs him.”