Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney in 2014

As England hosts its own informal, but huge and public, referendum on the state of soccer, a few names keep recirculating for particular critique. Among them, unsurprisingly, is Wayne Rooney, a once-wunderkind, now vet of the game who often serves as a similar punching bag at his club, Manchester United.


As captain of the English national team, it’s natural that Rooney bears the brunt of the hand-wringing coming out of their 2-1 defeat to Iceland on Monday in the UEFA EURO 2016. But even before that notorious Round of 16 match, commentators had already begun calling him washed up, once a promising young star, and now part of England’s recent history.


His friend and peer, the LA Galaxy’s Steven Gerrard, came to his defense in a column for the Telegraph on June 26. The headline pretty much said it all: “Wayne Rooney's evolution of his game deserves greater appreciation.”


In the column, Gerrard reminisced about the first time he saw Rooney play, as a member of Everton’s youth academy. Later, in 2003 when they were both called up for England, they became fast friends.


Essentially, Gerrard wrote in the Telegraph, everyone should leave Rooney alone:


Like all of us who have played for our country, Wayne has had to endure plenty of criticism in the years since his England debut. I have a feeling his achievements and contribution to the national team will be appreciated far more when he is retired than they have been so far. To become the record goal-scorer and (hopefully during the course of this tournament) the most capped outfield England player is a notable achievement. But I know that will not be enough for him. He wants to be the player who leads England to tournament success. That’s because he is a born winner. You will not hear Wayne talking about it being acceptable for England to get to the quarter-final or even a semi-final.


One just has to wonder what Stevie G. thinks now.


Meanwhile, shall we fan a few rumor flames? Last year, Rooney told the Guardian he might be open to an MLS move, while internet chatter linked him with Atlanta United. No further meat seems to be left on the bones of this story, but the Euro results could make for an interesting summer transfer window.