England star Wayne Rooney has responded to comments from Russia coach Leonid Slutsky who stated that the forward isn’t the same player.
Slutsky stopped short of outright criticism of the Manchester United forward, but insisted in his press conference on Thursday that he believed that Rooney was now a different player to the one Russia faced in European Championship qualification in 2007.
In his defence, the Russia coach has a point as Rooney has ultimately started the process of evolving into a midfield role, with his pace and stamina being brought into question particularly this season when leading the line for United.
However, the 30-year-old insisted that he doesn’t believe that the positional switch has been detrimental to his career, but in fact it has had the opposite effect.
“Everyone who watches football is entitled to opinions,” Rooney told reporters in the pre-match press conference on Friday.
“I know the qualities I have and I don’t need to sit here and defend myself.
“I’m aware that my game has changed slightly over the years and in my opinion it has changed for the better, but the opinions that matter to me are those of my coaches.”
It remains to be seen what line-up Roy Hodgson goes with against Russia on Saturday night in Marseille, but it’s widely acknowledged that Rooney won’t be fielded in a position up front.
Nevertheless, he has shown in recent months that he can still have a positive impact on proceedings in a deeper role with his vision, ability on the ball and eye for goal, and he will be hoping that he can play an influential role in England’s progress in France this summer.