LONDON - Wayne Rooney is ready to prove Gareth Southgate wrong by scoring the goals for Everton that will secure his England return.
Everton officially unveiled Rooney at Goodison Park yesterday and manager Ronald Koeman made it clear he will give the 31-year-old a platform to recapture his best form by playing England’s record goalscorer as a striker.
Rooney has not played for his country since collecting his 119th cap against Scotland last November but he has no axe to grind with England boss Southgate over that absence as he bluntly admitted his form for Manchester United last season was not good enough.
His return to Everton, though, has lit a fire. His immediate goal is winning a place in Koeman’s team and repaying him for this opportunity, but his long-term aim is to gain a place in England’s squad for next year’s World Cup in Russia.
‘As you well know, I love playing for England,’ said Rooney. ‘Gareth had to make a decision — as Jose Mourinho did — but I spoke to him. I wasn’t playing the football that I like and I don’t think you should play for your country if you are not playing for your club.
‘So I understood his decision fully. He told me that if I get back playing every week then the door is still open to return to the squad. It would be great if I could do that. If I do well here, I’m sure he will have a decision to make.’
Rooney took a pay cut to return to Everton, turning down more lucrative advances from China and the United States. He would have retired as an England player had he moved to the Far East but he feels he still has much to offer in the Premier League.
‘I want to play for England,’ said Rooney. ‘If I’d gone to China, which was an option, then I would have called it a day myself. It just wouldn’t have been right for me to try to carry on playing for England if I had gone there.’
It is expected Rooney will get his first game back in an Everton shirt in Tanzania on Thursday. He trained with his new team-mates yesterday and is ready to silence the critics who believe his career is in decline.
‘I always play like I have a point to prove,’ said Rooney. ‘I’m not coming back to a retirement home. I know I am at my best when I am playing games. I firmly believe this is the right place to do it.’