I’ve only just got round to reading this extraordinary interview with Wayne Rooney, in which the writer’s starting point is that Wayne Rooney is not an idiot savant or talented thug; he is actually a genius. I was as sceptical as you, until I read this paragraph:
“Part of my preparation is I go and ask the kit man what color we’re wearing — if it’s red top, white shorts, white socks or black socks,” he says. “Then I lie in bed the night before the game and visualize myself scoring goals or doing well. You’re trying to put yourself in that moment and trying to prepare yourself, to have a memory before the game. I don’t know if you’d call it visualizing or dreaming, but I’ve always done it, my whole life.”
And then, later in the interview, this:
?”When a cross comes into a box,” Rooney says, his eyes darting back and forth as he works the play over again, making little feints with his head as if trying to bewilder a defender, “there’s so many things that go through your mind in a split second, like five or six different things you can do with the ball. You’re asking yourself six questions in a split second. Maybe you’ve got time to bring it down on the chest and shoot, or you have to head it first-time. If the defender is there, you’ve obviously got to try and hit it first-time. If he’s farther back, you’ve got space to take a touch. You get the decision made. Then it’s obviously about the execution.”
This is Wayne Rooney. And I contend, your honour, that there are vanishingly few modern footballers who could speak so articulately about what they do.