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Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney contrast clear as Spurs meet Everton

The FC crew discuss Wayne Rooney's England career and whether an underwhelming 'golden generation' will hurt his legacy.

They may be predecessor and successor, their reigns interrupted only by interim choices. Wayne Rooney was the last designated England captain; come the World Cup, if not sooner, Harry Kane could be confirmed as the next.

The baton will not be passed at Goodison Park on Saturday, but they feel part of a lineage of English forwards. Rooney was the last of the misnamed "Golden Generation;" Kane is the leading light of the current crop. The national team's hopes have rested on each's broad shoulders. 

They meet with each wearing the No. 10 shirt of a side he supports. Each, it is fair to say, has made a financial sacrifice for loyalty. Rooney took a pay cut to leave Manchester United and rejoin Everton; Kane could earn considerably more if he pushed for a move from Tottenham. 

And yet the similarities may be superficial, the differences more pronounced, and not merely because Kane has retained a squeaky-clean image in a way Rooney has not. The 31-year-old was groomed for greatness from an early age, first targeted by United when he was just 14.

Kane was the footballing equivalent of a sleeper hit, the man whose success few predicted. His four loan spells in three seasons, spread across three divisions, offered insufficient clues of the heights he would reach.

The younger man was only 20 when he scored his first Premier League goal but, in comparison to the precocious Rooney, he was a slow starter. At the same age, the Merseysider was United's reigning player of the year, a £27 million buy, heading to a World Cup two years after being one of the top scorers in a European Championship.

Perhaps it is a microcosm of their careers that Kane has famously never scored a Premier League goal in August. Rooney has two in 2017 alone, while he managed four in 2009 and five in 2011. A man who scored a sensational first league goal at 16 to condemn the reigning champions, Arsenal, to a last-minute defeat can waste little time in making an impact.

Kane did not settle as soon. It may be a reason why he has been underestimated in a way Rooney cannot be. Spurs fans like to chorus ironically that he is "just a one-season wonder." In reality, his last three campaigns have produced 94 goals. As an illustration of how remarkable that is, the most Rooney has managed in any three-season spell is 84.

Kane has already reached 20 Premier League goals in a season three times, whereas Rooney has only twice topped 17. He has two Golden Boots to the older man's none. 

It highlights the way that his good-natured persona can disguise a ruthless, relentless finisher. Rooney has only really had sustained spells of scoring in his two most prolific campaigns, 2009-10 and 2011-12.

In the last three years, Kane has been on runs of 27 goals in 38 club games, 29 in 34 and 34 in 36 respectively; he feels a product of the generation encouraged by the ludicrous exploits of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi to believe it is possible to average a goal a game.

Rooney comes from an earlier era when one every two was a very respectable return; barring two standout seasons and his anticlimactic last at United, he showed great consistency in ending every campaign with an average of between 0.36 and 0.48 goals per game. 

They may have different attitudes. Kane can be the amiable assassin; Rooney, ostensibly more aggressive, may be less merciless and more selfless. It can be attributed in part to positioning. While both can drop deep to pick up the ball and both, in bygone years, would probably have played off a target man, Kane tends to be the furthest man forward. He has been compared to Teddy Sheringham, but unlike the former Tottenham No. 10, he tends to end up leading the line.

Harry Kane and predecessor Wayne Rooney travelled much different paths to becoming England No. 9s and captains.

In contrast, Rooney, who has offered greater versatility, is more of a No. 10. He has rarely been a No. 9 and while 2009-10, when he was at his most destructive and dynamic, was an exception, his subsequent times as the lone frontrunner have felt more like unhappy compromises. It is why picking him becomes problematic, especially for managers who do not want a specialist No. 10.

But Rooney can argue that altruism forms part of his appeal. Just the second footballer to reach a double century of Premier League goals, Rooney is also just one of four with 100 career assists. He has acted as the supplier, whereas Kane -- who has a mere 12 top-flight assists -- is likelier to capitalise on the service of Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli. 

He became more prolific at a time when goals were rarer for Rooney. Indeed, perhaps he hastened the end of the Liverpudlian's England career; along with Jamie Vardy and Marcus Rashford, he was a reason why Roy Hodgson relocated Rooney to midfield for Euro 2016. Both floundered in France, but the tournament did more damage to Rooney.

One argument is that he is overcriticised because of expectations whereas Kane may be spared censure because of the heart-warming element of his surprise rise. No one ever branded the Tottenham man "the white Pele" or looked back to a time when he seemed better than Ronaldo.

Yet if there is case to be made that Kane has overachieved in his career and Rooney may have underachieved, the Evertonian has the historic titles as United's and England's record scorer. He is still 122 Premier League goals ahead of Kane although, at his startling, recent rate of progress, the Spurs striker will bring up his own double century at some point in 2022.

Richard Jolly covers the Premier League and Champions League for ESPN FC. Twitter: @RichJolly.


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