England’s record goalscorer Wayne Rooney has retired from international football after rejecting a Three Lions recall.
The Everton striker, who rejoined his boyhood club from Manchester United this summer, announced on Wednesday he will step down from national duty “for good” with immediate effect.
The 31-year-old, who has enjoyed a fine start to the new season, revealed England manager Gareth Southgate had been preparing to recall him to the national squad for next month’s World Cup qualifying matches.
But Rooney, who has made a record 119 appearances for an England outfield player, informed Southgate he will no longer pull on the Three Lions shirt.
He is England’s top scorer with 53 goals and captained his country on 23 occasions.
Rooney had previously been left out of recent England matches after a disappointing last season with United, when he struggled to get into his club side.
In a statement, the player said: “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.
“It is a really tough decision and one I have discussed with my family, my manager at Everton and those closest to me.
“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.”
The news came after Rooney marked his Premier League return for Everton, a club he left to join United in 2004, with the winning goal against Stoke City.
Rooney became the youngest player to play for England when he made his international debut at the age of 17 in February 2003.
He went on to become the country’s youngest-ever scorer in September of that year.
Rooney spearheaded England’s run to the quarter-finals during the 2004 European Championships in what was arguably his finest tournament for the national side.
England’s highest ever goalscorer calls it a day. Congratulations to @WayneRooney on a magnificent international career. A player’s player.
— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) August 23, 2017
He was sent off as England’s World Cup bid ended at the quarter-final stage in 2006, with the national side continuing to disappoint at subsequent international tournaments.
“I will always remain a passionate England fan,” Rooney said.
“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.”
Southgate will pay a personal tribute to Rooney on Thursday, when the England manager names his squad to face Malta and Slovakia next month.
Former England striker Gary Lineker congratulated Rooney on “a magnificent international career”, while his ex-international teammate Michael Owen told him he should “be proud” of his England record.
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