Sunday 22 April 2018

How Wayne Rooney's international scoring record doesn't measure up to Robbie Keane's

Wayne Rooney and Robbie Keane
Wayne Rooney and Robbie Keane

Alistari Tweedale

How do Wayne Rooney’s international achievements stack up against the likes of Ali Daei, Stern John and Jan Koller? Not all that well, it turns out.

With penalties against San Marino and Switzerland Rooney equalled and overtook Sir Bobby Charlton’s England record this week, his tally rising to a half century of goals in 107 appearances.

Great praise has rightly been heaped on the Manchester United striker for scoring so many; Charlton’s record had stood a long time and Rooney’s eventual haul will take some beating.

His record has been compared favourably with the best two players on the planet in Lionel Messi (49 in 105 international games) and Cristiano Ronaldo (55 in 122), but there are plenty of others whose goalscoring proves that Rooney still leaves a lot to be desired.

Top international goalscorers

International goals

Ali Daei                                                                                             109

Ferenc Puskas                                                                                   84

Hussein Saeed                                                                                   78

Pele                                                                                                  77

Godfrey Chitalu                                                                                76

Bashar Abdullah                                                                                75

Kunishige Kamamoto                                                                        75

Sandor Kocsis                                                                                   75

Majed Abdullah                                                                                   71

Miroslav Klose                                                                                    71

Stern John                                                                                         70

Kiatisuk Senamuang                                                                           70

Gerd Muller                                                                                         68

Robbie Keane                                                                                     67

Didier Drogba                                                                                     65

Daei, of Iran, is the only player in footballing history with over 100 goals, while the legendary Hungarian Ferenc Puskas hit an incredible 84 goals in just 89 caps. Japan’s Kunishige Kamamoto struck 75 in 76; Gabriel Batistuta netted 56 times in 78 appearances; Didier Drogba reached 65 in 104 games.

All of these players – and lots of others – boast superior goals per game rates at international level to Rooney. England’s captain has scored at a rate of 0.47 goals per appearance, with six coming from the penalty spot and San Marino his favourite opponent, five goals coming against the minnows.

There are of course all sorts of extenuating circumstances that one could use to qualify Rooney’s record. For one, substitutions are much more common these days, meaning Rooney would have completed 90 minutes far less frequently that those playing 20 or 30 years ago.

Secondly, the likes of Stern John of Trinidad and Tobago will likely have poorer quality opposition to thank for his outstanding international record.

Then there is the argument that it is simply more difficult to score for your country than it used to be, but let’s not get into that unending debate.

Rooney for England vs select others from same era

Goals per game

David Healy                                                                                 0.38

Thierry Henry                                                                              0.41

Cristiano Ronaldo                                                                         0.45

Wayne Rooney                                                                           0.47

Lionel Messi                                                                                  0.47

Robbie Keane                                                                              0.47

Robin van Persie                                                                          0.49

Zlatan Ibrahimovic                                                                       0.52

Miroslav Klose                                                                              0.52

David Villa                                                                                    0.61

Dimitar Berbatov                                                                         0.62

Didier Drogba                                                                              0.63

The fact is that plenty from the same era as Rooney who have faced the same calibre of opposition have outscored him. David Villa scored 59 times at 0.61 goals per game; Miroslav Klose averaged 0.52 goals per game; Koller scored 0.6 times per appearance.

Then there is Robbie Keane who, playing for an indisputably inferior Republic of Ireland team, has scored an international goal in each of the last 18 years. Rooney’s longevity has been praised, but here again he has nothing on Keane.

The LA Galaxy forward now has 67 goals in 142 games for Ireland, netting at the same rate as Rooney but over an extra 35 appearances. He overtook Niall Quinn as the Republic’s leading scorer 11 years ago, aged only 24, and now has over three times as many goals as any other Irishman. That, Wayne, is a real achievement.

Rooney breaking Charlton’s record is a wonderful achievement in itself, but compare him to other prolific international goalscorers and there is something to say for Rooney still having a fair amount to prove.

He has time on his side to do just that but cannot rely on penalties for many more goals.

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