In Sven-Goran Eriksson’s final press conference as England manager following England’s exit from the 2006 World Cup finals, he issued a warning to English football to look after Wayne Rooney.
The Manchester United striker had been sent off as England had lost on penalties to Portugal to bring to an end Eriksson’s five-and-a-half-year reign as Three Lions manager.
"He's a fantastic player and has his temperament, but you can't hold that against him. Wayne Rooney is the golden boy of English football. Don't kill him because you will need him,” warned Eriksson to the assembled media as reported by the BBC.
More than seven years later and on the brink of another World Cup finals, Eriksson believes English football has largely heeded his warning and today Rooney remains both England and Manchester United’s most important player.
“Wayne is in good shape now, and I honestly believe he is now playing the best football of his whole career this season.
“We should all sit back and enjoy these years of Wayne’s career, because now at 28 he is showing us he is at his absolute peak.
“For me he is now the Premier League’s most exciting player, and certainly still Manchester United’s most influential player because when he plays well, he inspires the whole team, and you can see how they follow him.”
Next year’s World Cup finals will be Rooney’s third. But, so far, this tournament hasn’t seen the best of Rooney.
“I want to see the form he is showing now repeated next June at the World Cup as well,” says Eriksson, who gave Rooney his England debut against Australia in 2003 aged just 17.
“In his other tournaments he maybe hasn’t been fit, but he will be at the perfect age in Brazil and I believe he could finally be one of the stars of the World Cup.
“Since I left England it has been a joy to watch him develop. I knew him when he was younger, and I had great hopes for him, and I have been so pleased to see him fulfil all of that potential.
“When I had him his temperament could be a bit hot, but it is better now. He is a lot calmer and you see how that helps his football.
“He is the complete player who can play everywhere, up front on his own, behind the striker and in midfield. He can set up goals just as well as he can score them.
“If Wayne stays in this shape and focused, he can play for another six years at the very top.”
All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.