Ahead of Russia’s encounter with England on Saturday night, coach Leonid Slutsky has insisted that his side will prepare for a ‘different’ Wayne Rooney.
The last time Rooney faced the Russians was in European Championship qualification in 2007, and his role for both club and country has certainly changed since then as he moves closer towards the latter stages of his career.
While the Manchester United star has plenty left in the tank and is expected to play a key role for Roy Hodgson’s men this summer, Slutsky stopped short of suggesting that the 30-year-old is less of a threat, but believes that he’s “not the player that he was”.
“He has changed his style. He is not the player that he was,” he told the media at a press conference.
“It reminds me of Vagner Love when he came to CSKA Moscow in 2004. Back then, he was a pure striker because of his speed, his runs, and he scored lots of goals. He was brilliant in the front line.
“Now Vagner Love is very different. He organises, he plays passes. It would be unfair to say that Rooney is worse than before, but he is very different.”
Rooney will certainly have to adapt this summer and with United next season, as it is becoming increasingly likely that he will no longer be deployed as a striker.
With his pace diminishing and his stamina brought into question, a switch to an attacking midfield role or perhaps even a deeper position would suit him well, as he still has undeniable talent on the ball with his vision and passing range.
The England international still has an eye for goal too which will make him a threat to Russia, with both sides desperate to start their tournament with a win this weekend to take a big step towards progressing out of Group B and into the knockout stages.