Stubborn Wayne Rooney.
The Englishman recently defended his truculent behavior, ever on display this season, in what is an argument based more out of said emotion and rationalization than footballing sense.
To be sure, the passion and aggression Rooney exudes and personifies has its benefits when marshaled and channelled. But instead when anger controls the player, self-destruction follows.
Rooney needn't look any further than fellow teammate and former starlet Cristiano Ronaldo for insight into how emotions can curb a player's growth.
The Portugeuse serves as a fine warning sign. Last year, he did everything to deserve all the accolades awarded to him. His form was rampant, consistent, dominating; he was focused and confident.
This season, pressures conspire to expunge all patience and most efficacy from Ronaldo's game. Insecurity and arrogance replaced confidence. Blame replaced accountability.
The result for the Portuguese? More disgrace than Rooney ever brings upon himself, surely, and far less effect on the pitch where even a deplorable attitude and disposition could be forgiven.
Fortunately for Rooney, his demons are slightly more productive than those currently bedevilling the insecure winger. The striker's subconscious fuel drives him around the pitch. To be fair, this sometimes brings him out of position. But he tracks back. He gets stuck-in. These qualities, though, in a forward, are overvalued when goals aren't plenty, and rightly overlooked when they are rife!
Goals are of course the prime directive for a striker. And Rooney, despite being one of the better English footballers, and a top-20 striker in the world, probably has fallen short of perhaps slightly romantic hopes set upon his meaty shoulders as a young scouser; while the aforementioned Ronaldo certainly exceeded all in his last few seasons.
Many of Rooney's qualities are better suited to a midfielder. His ability to pass, his vision, tendencies towards grafting and getting stuck-in, willingness to run, an inability to beat defenders one-on-one, and his outspoken, fiery disposition all conduce to a midfield role.
His passion—still raw with youth, sometimes expressed immaturely, sometimes beneficially—like every other aspect of the world game, can be practiced and refined to create the utmost utility on the pitch. To justify it as being unyielding to growth or change—a character flaw—is merely the Englishman selling himself short.
''The desire to win makes me the player I am. Take that away and I would be totally different,'' he said after his brace against Slovakia. ''I do get frustrated at times but aggression has always been part of my game."
He is right and wrong on a few accounts here. Wayne Rooney made himself the player he is, and he should not be defined by destructive behavior, which he seems to confuse with the "desire to win", a desire all players share, but not all project through violence and "fack off" rage.
He is right, though, if you take it away, he would be totally different. But who's to say he won't be better? Aggression has always been a part of his game, and if he is happy with his current scoring rate, and his unfolding legacy, as is, then he may not want to curb it.
Who would begrudge him, one of the most recognizable players in world football?
But it shouldn't be within a competitor's nature to acquiesce.
He has produced modestly for England this season, claiming the English player of the year award for his performances in the white shirt.
For Manchester United, however, his season has again been slightly checkered, with incidents of immaturity and sophomoric behavior marring matches throughout an average campaign.
Last season Tevez outplayed the Englishman, with some cynical sections of prevailing professional media asking if this was a make-or-break year for Rooney.
If it was, for United, he's yet to achieve an on-form consistency greater than two weeks at a time. He's still bagged some goals, inevitably, and he's definitely played vital roles in many matches, although seldom.
The margin of difference between a balanced Rooney and the current boy Rooney may not be great, but it is substantial. And it only requires a few measured, deep breaths at vital, sporadic moments in only some matches to evolve Wayne into maturity.
It's hard to judge players who are great (or lingering slightly below). But, maybe carefully crafted words in print translate even to the ivory towers of our heroes, in hopes that they realize their full potential, instead of being content already achieving just a respectable majority of it.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!