Cast your minds back to World Cup 2006.
The tournament, hosted in Germany, brought together the two most hyped players in Europe.
Playing in front of his home fans was FC Koln’s prodigiously talented 21-year-old Lukas Podolksi, possessor of a hammer of a left foot and equally sharp movement.
The ace up Sven-Goran Eriksson’s sleeve came in the shape of a 20-year-old Wayne Rooney, the youngster with the power of a light-heavyweight boxer and guile like Gazza.
Neither were newcomers to the international game- Podolski had 25 caps to Rooney’s 29.
But both still had the innocence of youth and the potential to be truly great. Fast forward 11 years and both are retired from international football having racked up 130 and 119 caps respectively.
So why are their question marks over both their legacies?
When it comes to the international scene no one can question Podolski’s achievements.
He outshone Rooney at the 2006 World Cup to be crowned the Best Young Player, and went on to win the tournament in 2014.
No matter what his form at club level he always shone for Germany, scoring 49 goals in 130 caps.
He made the team of the tournament for Euro 2008, in which he scored three goals as Germany reached the final.
Now contrast this with Rooney’s achievements at international level.
An injury ended his participation at Euro 2004 before England were eliminated by Portugal, while he had to spend weeks in an oxygen tent to be fit for the 2006 World Cup following a broken metatarsal.
While he might have been fit he was never sharp, and his frustrations boiled over in the quarter-final clash against Portugal in which Ricardo Carvalho was lucky to escape with his meat and two veg intact.
The 2010 World Cup ended goalless and with an angry message for England fans who booed Fabio Capello side’s 0-0 draw with Algeria.
Euro 2012 again ended without any goals and with Capello claiming Rooney ‘only played well in Manchester’. Spotting a pattern here?
Rooney broke his World Cup duck in 2014, scoring against Uruguay, but England were dismal in bowing out in the group stages.
He was improved at Euro 2016, dropping into midfield, but again only scored one goal as England were infamously knocked out by Iceland.
While his record of 53 goals for England will take some beating, one goal in three World Cups means people will always question his international credentials as a true ‘great’.
Now let’s switch our attention to club football.
Rooney’s honour roll currently stands at five Premier League titles, four Community Shields, three League Cups, a Champions League trophy, Europa League medal, one FA Cup and a FIFA Club World Cup.
He’s been named the PFA Young Player of the Year twice, made the Premier League Team of the Year on three occasions, won the FWA Footballer of the Year three times and was acknowledged by his peers as the PFA Players’ Player of the Year in 2010.
He’s Man United’s record goalscorer with 253 goals in 559 appearances. In short, he’s a club legend.
But what of Podolski?
The striker’s World Cup form in 2006 earned him a move to Bayern Munich in what seemed to be a perfect match.
Germany’s brightest talent at Germany’s biggest club. But three years after leaving FC Koln he was back, having failed to cut it at FC Hollywood.
Three fairly mediocre seasons at Koln later and it was time to chance his arm at Arsenal.
But all too often he was a square peg in a round hole, not really a striker, not really a wide man.
A loan spell at Inter Milan was unsuccessful, and after two years in Turkey with Galatasaray he now finds himself at an underperforming Vissel Kobe side in danger of relegation from Japan’s top flight.
His trophy cabinet boasts a treble from a season in which he wasn’t always a starter at Bayern, an FA Cup with Arsenal three domestic cups with Galatasaray and a second division title with Koln.
For a player boasting 130 caps for Germany, you’d expect more.
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