Sven-Goran Eriksson believes Gareth Southgate should try to persuade Wayne Rooney to delay his international retirement until after next year’s World Cup, claiming “England still need him”.
The Three Lions’ record goalscorer on Wednesday announced his decision to stand down from England duty after 119 appearances and 53 goals.
Swede Eriksson handed a then 17-year-old Rooney his international debut in 2003 in an infamous 3-1 defeat to Australia at Upton Park and watched as he rose to prominence on the global scene with a series of sparkling displays at Euro 2004.
He has rarely hit those heights again in an England shirt but Eriksson still feels he has plenty to offer Southgate’s men.
“It’s a pity, he can still play at the highest level,” he said.
“If I was the manager I’d try to convince him to delay it until after the World Cup.
“You don’t score that amount of goals if you’re not a top-class football player, so for me Wayne Rooney was great, he is great and I hope he will change his mind and come back for the World Cup. England still need him.
“When we picked him we hoped that he would be a big player, a big star, and he became better and better. For England he was a fantastic football player.”
Rooney, 31, has divided opinion over the course of his 14-year England career, but Eriksson insisted the statistics speak for themselves, adding: “Many times he has been criticised but facts are facts, the games he has played for England and the goals he has scored for England.”
Everton forward Rooney had been tipped for a recall after scoring twice in his first two Premier League games – taking his top-flight tally to 200 – since returning to Goodison Park from Manchester United.
But in a statement he announced that, despite Gareth Southgate calling him to discuss a return to the squad, he wanted to step away to focus on his club career on Merseyside.