England manager Gareth Southgate still retains a certain level of respect for Wayne Rooney, as the forward announced his retirement.
Rooney announced his decision to retire from international football on Wednesday. He retires as the highest goal scorer with 53 goals and most appearances for an outfield player with 119.
Southgate said the Everton striker informed him of his decision when he contacted him about playing against Malta and Slovakia.
“I called him to firm up the meeting and he said he appreciated me calling, but he’d been thinking long and hard and was going to announce his international retirement,” said England boss Southgate.
“We talked for another 30 minutes and I totally understand his decision. He has a sense of loyalty to Everton and has a fresh opportunity there. I thought there was a role for him to play in the squad, but I understand his decision.
“I’m not sure what else you have to do to become a legend. I congratulate him on a fantastic international career.
“We’re good at judging our players harshly. Rooney’s done everything but win a trophy with England. By that token only the guys from 1966 can be elevated to that level.
“I’ve got huge respect for him. I was fortunate to play with him and manage him. He’s been a pleasure to work with and I’m sure there’ll be a role for him to play in the future.
“We’ve had recent squads without him so we’re used to that. We’ve named a lot of younger players, looking to the future, but I could see the value in having older players in there – like Jermain Defoe, for example. We’ve got exciting players coming through.”