Wayne Rooney has announced his retirement from international football with immediate effect, rejecting a call-up for next month’s matches against Malta and Slovakia.
England’s record goalscorer said in a statement: “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. However, having already thought long and hard, I told Gareth that I had now decided to retire for good from international football.”
No outfield player has won more England caps than the 31-year-old Rooney, who scored 53 goals in 119 appearances for his country.
Southgate phoned Rooney on Tuesday to say he wanted to include the forward in his upcoming squad following a fine start to life back at his boyhood club Everton. The former Manchester United captain informed England’s manager of his decision to quit international football in the same conversation.
“It is a really tough decision and one I have discussed with my family, my manager at Everton and those closest to me,” Rooney added in his statement. “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.
“I will always remain a passionate England fan. 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.”
It is 14 and a half years since the then 17-year-old striker burst on to the scene for England, making his debut in a friendly against Australia at Upton Park in February 2003. Rooney’s first international goal followed against Macedonia that September and the following summer his outstanding performances led to a place in the Euro 2004 team of the tournament.
The forward was unable to match those individual displays at a major competition, despite going on to play in three World Cups and two further European Championships.
He has, though, left an indelible mark on the national game. Rooney usurped Sir Bobby Charlton as England’s top scorer with his penalty against Switzerland in September 2015.
Rooney replaced David Beckham as the country’s most capped outfield player the following September in Slovakia, having announced his intention to retire after the 2018 World Cup.
That decision looked to be taken out of Rooney’s hands when England manager Southgate dropped his captain in his first matches as permanent manager in March. But leaving United for Everton has led to an immediate upturn in form and fortunes, making Southgate ready to recall the long-serving forward for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Malta and Slovakia.
Yet despite being within touching distance of Peter Shilton’s record 125-cap haul for England, Rooney has decided to walk away.
Captaining his country to a 3-0 World Cup qualifying win over Scotland last November proved his final appearance.
The subject of Rooney’s retirement is sure to dominate the agenda when Southgate announces his squad for the upcoming matches at St George’s Park on Thursday.