Between 2000-2008, the England National Team had some of the best individual players in their positions in all of world soccer. Yet they never made it past the quarterfinals in any tournament they competed in, and the “Golden Generation” came to a relative end with England failing to qualify for the 2008 European Championship all together.
According to Wayne Rooney, in a sit down with Roger Bennett from Men in Blazers on the Wayne Rooney Podcast, had England had a better coach, they would have won it all.
“You look at our team ten years ago and we arguably had the best group of players in world football,” Rooney said. “Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, Ashley Cole, Gerrard, Scholes, Lampard, Beckham, Myself, Michael Owen. Our team then, if we had Guardiola, with that group of players, we would have won everything. No doubt about it.”
If you’re like me and you’ve enjoyed Rooney’s honest chats with Rog, it’s not super surprising to hear him speak this off the cuff about a major moment earlier in his career. There’s a lot to break down from this comment, though.
Rooney’s first manager for England was the Swede Sven-Goran Eriksen. Eriksen, when he took over England in 2001, was coming off leading Lazio – yes Lazio – to the Serie A title, and had previous success with Fiorentina, Roma, and Benfica in Portugal.
He was ultimately criticized for his lack of fire and emotion on the touchline, as he watched England get knocked out of the quarterfinals at both the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, and the 2004 European Championships. The 2004 Euros and 2006 World Cup exits were both on penalty kicks, both to Portugal.
Rooney of course was injured against Portugal in the 2004 tournament, and had been injured in the run up to the 2006 World Cup and wasn’t at his best for that tournament either.
Perhaps the biggest indictment against Eriksen’s leadership – and that of the managers before him – was that Paul Scholes retired from international duty at just 30-years old, despite being one of the best holding midfielders in the world. Eriksen had tried, repeatedly to somehow fit Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Scholes into a 4-4-2, with one forced to play along the wing, and Scholes apparently decided if he wasn’t valued enough, he’d quit while he was ahead.
You wonder if Guardiola, or any coach today, with the value played on a good holding midfielder, would have made Scholes the first name on the teamsheet.
Things didn’t get much better for England after Eriksen, and Steve McLaren failed to qualify England for the 2008 Euros and was run out of town, but the damage was done.
So could Guardiola have won the World Cup with the former Golden Generation? Perhaps. But Guardiola would have struggled to get all these individual talents – many of whom were rivals for their club teams – to play together and play for the flag on their chest.
Listen to the rest of Rooney’s chat with Rog below.