Wayne Rooney comes of age

Former Everton star Wayne Rooney is being hailed as perhaps the best soccer player in the world after his two goals against Italian giants AC Milan assured Manchester United’s place in the final eight of the European Champions League. Among those singing Rooney’s praise is David Beckham, who came on as a substitute for Milan. The former Man U idol received a standing ovation from his old fans, but the outcome was no longer in doubt by the time he appeared.
Said Beckham of Rooney, ”He’s such an exceptional talent — I think without a doubt he’s one of the best, if not the best, player at the moment along with [Cristiano] Ronaldo and [Lionel] Messi.” Speaking of Ronaldo, whose Real Madrid side crashed out of the Champions League yesterday against Lyon, Rooney is now on 30 goals for the season, and could challenge Ronaldo’s club record of 42.
Rooney also received praise from AC Milan’s manager, Leonardo, who as member of Brazil’s 1994 World Cup winning side, knows a thing or two about world class strikers. He said:

He’s the complete player; strong, fast and he works hard. He does a lot of incredible movement and he’s playing in a system that is perfect for him. United play at such speed and often on the counter-attack. That system, with Rooney, is incredible.

Rooney’s manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, attributes Rooney’s improvement less to his system which, with Ronaldo gone now has Rooney at its hub, but to old-fashioned hard work. According to Sir Alex, “he’s putting in extra work after training and I think you get the rewards of that.”
But veteran soccer writer Harry Harris sees an additional reason for Rooney’s success which I think is also spot-on:

What I like most of all, is that this bulldog of a striker is playing with a smile rather than a growl on his face. If he has resolved his temperament problems, he is heading towards becoming the best player in the world. A successful World Cup in South Africa can take him that last step to the very summit.

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