Comment: Why don't Robbie Keane and Wayne Rooney get the acclaim their records should guarantee?
They should be recognised as icons of their era and standard bearers for generations to come, yet Robbie Keane and Wayne Rooney have always attracted scorn amid the begrudging acclaim that has come their way.
As Rooney curled in his 250th Manchester United goal to become the club’s all-time record scorer at Stoke last month, the debate over the merits of his place among the greats of the game was ignited once again.
Even on a day when he claimed one of the great records in world football by surpassing Bobby Charlton in the United scoring charts, Rooney’s vocal critics were quick to dismiss his achievement and suggest he should be downgraded as a second-rate hero.
“Wayne Rooney will be remembered as a liability,” declared a deluded United supporter on one of those radio phone-in shows that give voice to the clowns who proclaim themselves to be football fans.
Other callers suggested Rooney does not deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as United greats Charlton, Denis Law, George Best or even Roy Keane and Eric Cantona.
This despite his haul of five Premier League titles, a Champions League win in 2008, FA Cup and League Cup successes, not to mention that goal scoring record that will stand the test of time, Rooney still struggles to win the popularity vote.
High-profile voices have been keen to discredit Rooney’s milestone as he eclipsed Charlton’s England and United scoring records, with the chorus calling for his removal from his national team growing more vocal with each passing year.
Indeed, when England boss Gareth Southgate left Rooney out of his team for the World Cup qualifier against Slovenia last October, the jubilant reaction from the majority on social media said much about the distain many feel for this seemingly unpopular symbol of the English game.
Ireland’s record scorer Keane has been followed by a similarly negative narrative throughout his goal-laden career, despite the his record of 126 Premier League goals confirming his legacy should be cast in gold.
Ah Robbie just got lucky to earn as much as he did in his career...all his international goals have come against the minnows of the world game, the cynics are keen to tell us.
We have all heard those arguments aired time and again by Robbie haters and yet such venom is sadly misplaced.
Despite his status as the most famous face in Irish soccer over the last two decades to a worldwide audience, lovers of the game in Ireland have been keen to dismiss Keane as a showboating, over-rated, diving charlatan.
What has he ever won, question his critics? He is not even in the top five of Ireland’s all-time greatest players, they say.
Well, Keane’s career should be measured by more than just medals, as this is a sportsman who has made the most of his talents and that, in itself, is an accomplishment worthy of admiration.
Why are Keane and Rooney so despised by the very people who should laud them as legends?
It is a complex debate that has a different answer for many, with many of the reasons provided for disrespecting these two giants of the game highlighting the folly of those presenting their arguments.
Keane and Rooney will not be noted in history alongside modern greats such as Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, but the records have created should earn them respect.
It’s hard to imagine Keane’s total of 68 international goals for Ireland ever being eclipsed, while it is equally improbable that Rooney will ever see his United scoring record beaten as loyalty to one club is an ideal from a bygone era.
Keane and Rooney may well receive the adulation they deserve long after they have hung up their goal laden boots, but there is no need to wait to toast these two national heroes.