As news of Wayne Rooney’s departure to boyhood club Everton broke, as is always the case with modern football – tributes poured across social media.
Some were references to his stale final years at Manchester United, some were tributes to a club legend, but one thing was obvious: even still, Wayne Rooney divides opinion.
One tribute that struck me however, was a comparison with Christopher Nolan’s portrayal of Harvey Dent in the Dark Knight.
“You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become a villain”, the district attorney of Gotham tells Batman.
While in many ways this line is relevant to Wayne Rooney, it does not paint the full picture.
Yes, for many years Rooney was considered a hero at United, and in the past few years that reputation has diminished slightly; but surely Batman shares more similarities with the Liverpool native.
From a young age, for as much good as Rooney did on the pitch, he could not shake a negative image of some sort.
In his first few seasons for Manchester United, he was a revelation – a teenage sensation and the brightest English talent since Michael Owen.
Yet, despite this, he had made enemies in his hometown.
Everton fans saw his departure to United as a betrayal of the club that gave him his big chance; while across the town, he was now just another United player to dislike.
At an international level, he was the star player of England’s 2004 Euro campaign, and its ultimate failure fell on his shoulders, having been unable to play through an ankle injury.
Rooney’s paradoxical nature continued on through his United career, being both hated and loved by England and United fans at the same time.
Whether it was his seemingly uncontrollable temper on the pitch, or his lack not having enough passion anymore – opinion on Rooney lay in the hands of the beholder.
Twice Rooney asked for a transfer, having grown frustrated of playing out of position to accommodate other players and twice he stayed, having been offered a much larger slice of cake.
This did not do his reputation any favours among the United contingent – but as he continued to fire in the goals, opinion remained divided.
Persistent failures as captain of his country, combined with strong media criticism meant that his small band of followers grew fewer still.
The Batman which Nolan presents us with is one of constant frustration who rarely receives any closure; even at the very end when his enemy is defeated.
For Rooney, this came when he broke Sir Bobby Charlton’s goalscoring record.
Strangely, what should have been the moment that res-surged him to the level of esteem he once enjoyed, actually had more of an air of closure to it.
It drew a close to his United career in the eyes of many – he could now leave happily.
Prolonging his United career isn’t what made Rooney into a villain, he already was one.
He was always a villain, and a hero, maybe not the one United always wanted, but the one they needed.