On July 4, in the year of our lord 2011, Wayne Rooney tweeted an announcement declaring that he had undergone a hair transplant procedure and since that moment, the world has never been the same.
Little did Rooney know that him having a dead person’s hair injected into his scalp (OK, we’ll hold our hands up; we’re not 100 percent sure on how the procedure is conducted) had already changed the face of football forever.
We’re not going to claim that the hair transplants had anything to do with Robin Van Persie keeping Rooney out of the Manchester United first team—which led to Rooney wanting to leave United; Chelsea making a bid; then a publicity war breaking out between United and Chelsea, with United claiming Chelsea had offered £10million plus Juan Mata or David Luiz for Rooney; and then Chelsea denying it by saying it was a cash-only bid and no players were discussed.
That isn’t the changing of football history. That isn’t changing anything. That’s just making Wayne Rooney hand in a transfer request and he does that all the time.
Rooney’s 2011 hair transplant changed football for this reason: the decision to go under the knife is a big one. And not just down to the £15,000 cost because, let’s face it, to a man of Rooney’s wealth, £15,000 is worth to him what four slices of cucumber picked off of a sandwich and thrown onto the street is worth to you.
The reason it is such a big decision is the operation typically takes up to a day (we have since looked into it, we can also confirm corpse hair is not used). No matter how much money you earn, no one wants a whole day of surgery on your head.
And what will the public reaction be? In terms of his appearance, Rooney has often been a figure of fun. His weight and his comparison to the animated ogre, Shrek, have often been brought up. So how cruel will the mocking be when he suddenly takes to the field with a mullet?
The week before Rooney had his transplant, Manchester United played Barcelona in the 2011 Champions League final to Barcelona.
When contemplating a hair transplant and all that it involves, Rooney’s mind couldn't possibly have been 100 percent on the game. Maybe 90 percent. Maybe 99 percent. But not 100 percent.
And if he was growing conscious of his appearance (which to even consider the procedure, you must be); what you looked like, in front of 90,000 people and the millions watching on television must have been nagging at him a bit.
In that final, Rooney scored United’s only goal in their 3-1 loss and was arguably United’s best player. Which prompts the question, what if he was completely focused? What if the thought of a hair transplant had never entered his brain (or scalp)? Would a Wayne Rooney, at his very best and free from distraction, have turned that game around?
Who knows how many he could have scored, how many he could have set up and how he could have altered the scoreline.
For many, the 2011 Champions League final was the game that defined Barcelona as one of the greatest teams the world has ever seen. Up there with the 1970 Brazil team, the early-'70s Ajax side and the 2011 Queens Park Rangers Championship winning squad. The match even helped cement Lionel Messi's claim to be the greatest player. Sir Alex Ferguson said after the game, “No one has given us [Manchester United] a hiding like that. It's a great moment for them. They deserve it because they play the right way and enjoy their football.”
Little did Ferguson know that five months later, his Manchester United side were given a 6-1 hiding at home to Manchester City.
As if there was any doubt before, the 2011 Champions League final made Barcelona officially the team to beat. This in turn forced their rivals to strengthen—namely Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid.
Real beat Barcelona to the next season’s La Liga by nine points. Guardiola would then leave Barcelona to be replaced by his assistant, Tito Villanova.
Throughout this 2011-12 season, the rivalry between Mourinho’s Real and Guardiola’s Barcelona intensified and it looked like it would come to a head with a blockbuster Champions League final at El Clasico between the two sides. All Barcelona had to do was beat Chelsea and all Real Madrid had to do was beat Bayern Munich.
Both failed and Chelsea would go on to pinch the 2012 Champions League trophy from a dominant Bayern on penalties.
The intensified, competitive rivalry of Spain’s big two that was sparked by that 2011 Champions League final—which forced both Barca and Madrid to try and become stronger than the other—helped maintain and increase the Spanish national team's quality as they went on to win Euro 2012. Their starting 11 in the Euro 2012 final would be made up of 10 Barcelona or Real Madrid players and David Silva.
Bayern would finally win the trophy that Chelsea robbed from them, a year later in the 2013 final when, once again, we looked set for an El Clasico Champions League final. All Barcelona had to do was beat Bayern and all Real had to do was beat Borussia Dortmund.
Both failed, and it would be an all-German final at Wembley (the same venue where Barcelona trounced Manchester United, Wayne Rooney and Wayne Rooney’s receding hairline two years previous). It’s too soon to tell, but some think this final was the first chapter in the rise of the Bundesliga as World Football’s dominant league.
Pep Guardiola, the man who engineered the Barcelona 2011 Champions League final victory, would become Bayern Munich’s new manager.
Mourinho’s Madrid would concede the 2012-13 La Liga to Tito Vilanova’s Barcelona and Mourinho would quit the Bernabeu after upsetting most of the dressing room.
No doubt unsettled by the talk of Spanish football no longer being the strongest brand, Spain went into the 2013 Confederation Cup looking invincible, but they lost final to Brazil. World Cup 2014 now looks wide open.
While Pep is at Bayern, Mourinho is now at Chelsea and bidding for Rooney (avec hair, sans Mata and Luiz), Carlo Ancelotti is now the Real Madrid manager; Laurent Blanc replaced Ancelotti at Paris Saint Germain; Barcelona’s managerial role is currently vacant; and Sir Alex Ferguson has left Manchester United after 27 years at the club, failing to capitalise on the two Champions League trophies (winning the 2011 final was his last chance).
And all this because Wayne Rooney was considering getting hair transplants.