Wayne Rooney deserves more respect for his England career and criticism of his achievements with the national team is unfair, according to Jermain Defoe.
Defoe is in the squad to face Malta and Slovakia that the Everton forward opted out of when he called time on his international career last week, having not won a trophy with the national team.
Rooney’s former international team-mate was full of praise for his accomplishments, which include 119 caps and a record 53 goals, and feels those who cast doubt on his legacy do not fully understand what it takes to succeed at the highest level.
“You have to respect his decision,” Defoe said of Rooney ahead of the World Cup qualifying double-header.
“He’s retired at the top and you can sort of understand it because he’s had such a great international career.
“To get in the squad at a young age , to have a lot of pressure on your shoulders, more than other players to be honest, is never easy. To be that consistent for all those years means he deserves a lot of credit.
“He’s done so much and has nothing left to prove. He will be missed.
“He’s had a lot of criticism, but I think it’s very strange because people don’t understand what it takes to do it at that level. It is a little bit unfair and you have to respect what he has done.
“To be the highest scorer for England, well if that was me I’d be immensely proud.
“It’s a wonderful achievement. He’s a great guy as well and I wish him all the best for the future.”
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) August 23, 2017
Defoe added: “Wayne will be missed. It does feel strange because I have been in the squad with Wayne for a number of years and I got on well with him. Away from football, he is such a nice guy.
“We have to look forward now, but I wish him all the best for the future.”
Rooney retired at 31, while Defoe is still representing the national team at 34, but the Bournemouth striker does not believe age was the deciding factor.
“Everyone’s different,” he said. “Some players get into their thirties and might feel like they would rather concentrate on club football.
“Maybe physically they might feel like not playing so much football would help them play better for their clubs.
“There are different players and different reasons. I don’t think the age thing really matters to be honest.”