Michael Owen: Record breakers Robbie Keane and Wayne Rooney are under-appreciated
England goal scoring great Michael Owen believes the record breaking duo of Robbie Keane and Wayne Rooney do not received the acclaim they deserve for their achievements on the international stage.
Rooney equalled the enduring England goal scoring record set by Bobby Charlton in 1970 as his side recorded a comfortable Euro 2016 qualifying win against the minnows of San Marino on Saturday, a day after Keane added to his legend as an Irish goal scoring great with a brace in the 4-0 win against Gibraltar.
The pair are proud owners of statistics that emphatically confirm they merit recognition as international greats and yet a prevailing pessimism is tagged on to their legacy, with their critics as plentiful as their admirers.
Speaking at an event to promote the launch of the BT Sport Europe TV channel, former Liverpool and Manchester United striker Owen expressed his shock at the suggestion that Keane is not universally acclaimed in his homeland.
“I find it hard to believe Irish football fans are not appreciative of what Robbie Keane has done for the Ireland national team,” says Owen, who scored 40 goals for England before injuries contributed to the premature end of his international career.
“To think that a player has scored more than 60 goals in an Ireland team that have not had too much success over the last decade and more, it is an incredible achievement. Keane has been the leader of the team for as long as anyone can remember
“Maybe some of the critics don’t appreciate how difficult it is to score that many goals for your country these days. I remember 30 years ago when England were beating Turkey by eight and nine goals and some of the strikers could pick up hat-tricks without needing to do too much.
“Those days are long gone, with the exception of countries like San Marino, Gibraltar and a couple more. Even the smaller nations are well organised and don’t concede too many goals these days.
“The key Rooney and Keane is how fit they have stayed. While there is some luck in that, it is also because they work hard and train hard to make sure they give themselves the best chance to avoid injuries.
“It’s easy to say these guys haven’t had much competition or their places and they get to play a lot of minutes to build up their goal tallies, but you have to have the desire to do that and Rooney and Keane have a desire to play for their country and a passion to do well.
“They also need to have a whole lot of class and it is impossible for anyone to argue that Rooney and Keane have not had that down the years.”
In many ways, the image Rooney has been given in England mirrors that of Keane’s in this country, with a sense for some that both have failed to live up to expectations ignoring their remarkable achievements on the field.
Rooney, it seems, suffers from a similar stigma in England and while his record breaking haul of England goals suggest he merits a little more respect than he is afforded, Owen offers this critique of a player he played alongside at Manchester United in the final two years of his own goal laden career.
“Is Wayne Rooney a great player, I have heard that question a lot down the years,” adds Owen.
“I remember when he came into the England side alongside me at Euro 2004 and did so well. All the hype that blew up around him after that inevitable in so many ways, but it is wrong to say he has not gone on to achieve great things in the game for Manchester United and England.
“Unfortunately, Wayne hasn’t performed at his best in a World Cup and that’s why people view his England career in a negative light, but you could say the same about so many England players in the last decade. Wayne Rooney alone has not been the problem, England as a whole have been the problem.
“He may get a final chance to prove himself at a World Cup as well because the way I see it, Wayne hasn’t got too much competition for his place in the England team right now. I can see him playing for another five years in the international team.”
Many will never been entirely convinced the men who will soon be England and Ireland’s all-time great marksmen deserve to hailed as legends, yet both are destined to leave goal scoring legacies that suggest they should be bestowed such a status.
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KEANE V ROONEY
Europe’s all-time leading international goal scorers
Ferenc Puskas (Hungary 1945-56) – 84
Sandor Kocsis (Hungary 1948-56) – 75
Miroslav Klose (Germany 2001-14) – 71
Gerd Muller (West Germany 1966-74) – 68
Robbie Keane (Republic of Ireland 1998- ) 67
Top England goal scorers
Bobby Charlton (1958-70) – 49
Wayne Rooney (2003- ) 49
Gary Lineker (1984-1992) – 48
Jimmy Greaves (1959-67) – 44
Michael Owen (1998-2008) – 40