Ask an Italian, a Spaniard, a German who England's biggest threat will be at next summer's World Cup and they will say Wayne Rooney. Hell, ask most English people and they will probably say Rooney.
And at the moment, it's quite difficult to argue with them. Rooney is in a rich vein of scoring form, with 12 goals this season and six in his last six Premier League games.
However, from an England perspective, current good form isn't particularly useful. Roy Hodgson needs him to be playing at this level in Brazil if England are to have any hope of surpassing the predictable result of a tame second-round exit to the first semi-decent team they face.
“It's too damn early for me,” joked Hodgson in the Daily Express this week, when asked about Rooney's form.
But as ever, truth was spoken in jest. Rooney is indeed currently playing well, but history has taught us that this will probably not last until next summer. Indeed, we can't predict when this form might disappear off a cliff.
While Hodgson was obviously never going to express such exasperation in public, he knows this. He continued, as quoted by Sky Sports:
He is playing fantastic. He's an outstanding player.
I just wish I could turn the clock forward and keep him in this form, maybe bottle up what he is doing at the moment, and keep it on a shelf somewhere and release it in May and June.
I have got to hope Wayne can keep up that good form and we see exactly the same in June as we are seeing at the moment - if we do we have got one major tool in our box.
The good news for Hodgson is that there's theoretically time for Rooney to lose form, then regain it again in time for the trip to Brazil. And there is plenty of promise in a front four of Rooney playing behind Daniel Sturridge, with Danny Welbeck and Theo Walcott on either flank. But whoever plays, it's clear that the attack will still be built around Rooney.
However, Rooney's history at tournaments isn't good. In fact, one could argue he hasn't made a significant impact on one since those early games at Euro 2004, when he scored against Switzerland and Croatia and the country saw potential for a glorious English era. He was injured in 2006, missed out on the tournament— along with the rest of his countrymen—in 2008, injured/half-fit again in 2010 and suspended for the first two games of 2012, and thus rusty.
The latter is the worst because it was self-inflicted; he could not have helped suffering injuries at inopportune times, but he could have helped lashing out at a Montenegrin passer-by, thus stunting his chances of making a significant contribution in Poland and Ukraine.
Rooney's place in this most ephemeral notion of "history" is rather unclear. In the minds of many Manchester United fans, his "legacy" has been more than tainted by a couple of transfer-request sagas, one confirmed, one merely according to Sir Alex Ferguson. With England, it is defined by both those early successes in Portugal and the subsequent disappointments.
There is more than a hint of self-destructiveness to Rooney, and whether that is due to an emotional immaturity or just a volatile character, or perhaps something else, is unclear. His recent inexplicable but luckily unpunished kick at Jordon Mutch suggests he has not, and maybe will not learn.
This is not the last tournament Rooney will play in. He will be 30 for the European Championships in France, so he could still make an impact then. However, this will probably be the last World Cup in which the England team will be essentially built around him.
For Rooney, a strong and consistent performance could be the last chance to create a significant international legacy. For England, a strong and consistent performance from Rooney will be their best chance of success.