IN 1998, when Michael Owen was tearing Argentina apart before David Beckham got sent off in that notorious World Cup quarter-final, Wayne Rooney was watching on the sofa at his nan’s on Merseyside.
Twelve years later, Owen and Beckham are fading fast and it’s Wayne’s World – with only 90 days of normality left before the big kick off in South Africa on June 11.
As he toured the nation with the trophy England haven’t won since 1966, Rooney opened up a bit after his four-goal blitz put Milan out of the Champions League (below) – and placed him firmly above the rest as the world’s best striker.
Speaking at Earl’s Court in London after a gig for World Cup fans by The Enemy, Rooney said: "I remember watching Michael score that goal. I was watching with my family round at my nan's, only a young boy at the time. It's a dream to play for your country in anything - to do so in the World Cup is unbelievable.
“You try not to think too much about the World Cup but it’s always in the back of your mind. It’s a bit weird it’s so close now.
“We will be going to South Africa well prepared. Hopefully we'll have a great tournament and have this (he said, patting the World Cup) back here come the end of July.”
As for the debate over the world’s best player, Rooney said: “It’s nice to hear these things, but you don’t read too much into it. I’d go for Cristiano Ronaldo. He's a great player - but it would be nice to knock them out."
As for his recent run of headed goals – seven of his last eight have come from the forehead – Rooney said: "I've worked a lot on my heading. It's going well - perhaps it's coming off my bald patch!"
But more important things have happened off the pitch for the former Everton striker. Like the birth of his son Kai. Still just 24, he grinned: "I've enjoyed being a dad. You could say it’s changed me. It's different and hard work but a great feeling.
"I've changed a lot in the last couple of years anyway, and becoming a father means you have to be a role model for your son and be someone he can look up to.
"Changing nappies is probably the hardest thing so far - and I hear it gets harder as well.
"He's been to a few matches, even though he probably doesn't know what's happening yet."
Labels: cristiano ronaldo knock-out, earl's court, headers, manchester united four goal blitz, neal collins in south africa, the enemy, Wayne Rooney, wayne's world, world cup 2010 trophy tour