Premier League teams are busy splashing the cash this summer in a bid to improve ahead of the 2017/18 campaign. The so-called Big Six are gaining the majority of the column inches as they are all linked with some of Europe’s leading lights, but no team thus far has shown more ambition than Everton. Ronald Koeman’s side have outspent all and sundry so far, even Man City, as they have brought in Michael Keane, Davy Klaasen and Jordan Pickford, among others. Selling Romelu Lukaku will balance the books, but Koeman still shows no signs that he will stop spending. It is an extremely exciting time to be an Everton fan, arguably more so now than it has been in decades, but for all the money being spent it is a free transfer that causes the most intrigue.
The boy wonder is on the brink of a return. Wayne Rooney is no longer the most promising forward in the world, but the England captain will bookend his illustrious career at Goodison Park. He made his name at Everton all those years ago, back in 2002, five days before his 17th birthday, when he announced himself to the world by scoring a sensational last-minute winning goal against champions Arsenal.
A star was born and Rooney lasted just two full seasons at Everton before he was snapped up by Sir Alex Ferguson at Man Utd. Five Premier League titles, a Champions League winners’ medal and four Player of the Year awards later, having become the leading goal scorer of all time for Man Utd and England, he is heading back. After a phenomenal 13 seasons at Old Trafford,
Rooney is now in the twilight of his career and did not get much of a look in under Jose Mourinho last season. And yet, when he did play, he still showed what he was capable of. Towards the end of the campaign, as Mourinho started resting players in the league to concentrate on the Europa League, Rooney scored against a Tottenham defence that was extremely difficult to breach last season. He scored against Swansea and Burnley towards the end of last season and showed he still has that predatory instinct, and he also still has magnificent long distance strikes in his locker.
What a story it would be if Rooney were to excel once more at Goodison Park. Unlike his former teammate Cristiano Ronaldo, Rooney’s body is not exactly a temple and – despite having a similar level of potential – his career, while exemplary, has not reached the heights of Ronaldo’s. But Rooney has not taken the easy option. He could have gone off to China or the USA and made a fortune by running rings around poor players, but instead he has elected to stay in the Premiership and fight.
If he takes the right approach to health, fitness and diet, he could enjoy a glorious twilight to his career. He has the intelligence of movement, the touch and the skill to carry on excelling late into his 30s, just as Paul Scholes, Francesco Totti and many more did. He cannot rely on explosiveness any more, but he simply has to reinvent himself. Rooney could yet emerge as the surprise package of 2017-18. He is not done with trying to force his way into the England side, and will be highly motivated to succeed for what is shaping up to be a very strong Everton team. Would you really bet against him excelling, after all he has achieved? This is a great opportunity to show that he is still the superior player to the man heading in the other direction, Lukaku, and flourish at Everton.
Everton are being given no chance of winning the title in 2017/18. They are between 80/1 and 125/1 to win the league, and it could be worth a speculative each-way punt on this exciting English core – Pickford, Keane, Rooney – leading them to the top of the table.
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They have a top manager, great youngsters like Tom Davies and now the winning mentality and experience Rooney will bring. It might sound fanciful, but just remember that in 2015/16 Leicester City won the title at odds of 5,000/1.
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