Former England skipper Wayne Rooney has announced his international retirement after rejecting a call-up to the Three Lions squad for next month’s World Cup qualifiers against Malta and Slovakia.
England boss Gareth Southgate had conveyed to Rooney his intention to recall him to the international fold having overlooked the 31-year-old for matches against Scotland and France in June.
Rooney’s re-emergence on Southgate’s radar follows a promising and seemingly reinvigorating start to the season at Everton, having returned to Goodison Park after 13 years at Manchester United this summer.
He walks away in a World Cup year as England’s most capped outfield player – only goalkeeper Peter Shilton with 125 has more – and the country’s all-time leading goalscorer, having netted 53 goals in 119 appearances.
“It was great that Gareth Southgate called me this week to tell me he wanted me back in the England squad for the upcoming matches. I really appreciated that,” read a statement from Rooney.
“However, having already thought long and hard, I told Gareth that I had now decided to retire for good from international football.
“It is a really tough decision and one I have discussed with my family, my manager at Everton and those closest to me. Playing for England has always been special to me.
“Every time I was selected as a player or captain was a real privilege and I thank everyone who helped me. But I believe now is the time to bow out.
“Leaving Manchester United was a tough call but I know I made the right decision in coming home to Everton. Now I want to focus all my energies on helping them be successful.”
Despite his record-breaking statistics and obvious talent, Rooney has failed to replicate the dynamic form he showed at Euro 2004, his debut tournament, during the major competitions which followed.
Rooney went on to play in three World Cups and two further European Championships without leaving an indelible mark on any, a source of frustration which he referenced when bringing down the curtain on his England career.
“I will always remain a passionate England fan,” added Rooney. “One of my very few regrets is not to have been part of a successful England tournament side.
“Hopefully the exciting players Gareth is bringing through can take that ambition further and I hope everyone will get behind the team. One day the dream will come true and I look forward to being there as a fan – or in any capacity.”
Rooney was handed his senior international debut by Sven-Goran Eriksson as an experimental England side lost 3-1 to Australia in a friendly at Upton Park 14 in February 2003.
His first England goal arrived against Macedonia that September and during the ensuing years he would surpass the tallies of Alan Shearer, Michael Owen Jimmy Greaves, Gary Lineker and finally Sir Bobby Charlton.
He usurped Charlton’s then-record of 49 goals with a penalty against Switzerland in September 2015 and a year later he took the mantle of England’s most capped outfield player from David Beckham.