Wayne Rooney believes foreign managers like Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp are helping England, and admits the national team were a step behind in their coaching at previous major tournaments.
Rooney was part of the England squad which suffered a number of underwhelming exits from major tournaments – losing on penalties to Portugal at Euro 2004 and the 2006 World Cup, suffering humiliation by Germany at the 2010 World Cup and exiting in the group stages of the 2014 World Cup.
Despite the ‘golden generation’ of the mid-2000s, England never got beyond a quarter-final in Europe or on the world stage, with Gareth Southgate’s young side eclipsing that achievement with a semi-final spot in this summer’s World Cup in Russia.
Rooney, in an exclusive interview with Sky Sports’ Gary Neville ahead of winning his 120th and final cap for England against the USA on Sky Sports Main Event on Thursday night, believes he knows where things have changed after the frustration of past years.
“As a team I think we were unlucky on a couple of occasions, on penalties, but I think we could have done better,” he said.
“Maybe if we had those players in this era, when there does seem to be a lot more coaching, a lot more intelligence in terms of how the teams are prepared and set up, I think a lot of coaches, the likes of Guardiola and Klopp coming into the Premier League, are helping a lot of our young players.
“I know there is a debate over foreign managers in the Premier League but I believe what they’re doing for the likes of Raheem Sterling, Kyle Walker, players like that, has given them a massive amount of knowledge of how to play the game. It’s my turn to go and watch as a fan now and try to enjoy it that way.”
Sven Goran Eriksson took over as England manager after Kevin Keegan’s resignation in 2000, and was initially a controversial figure after becoming England’s first foreign appointment.
He allayed most questions with the famous thumping 5-1 win in Germany a year later, but could never lead England beyond a quarter-final place at a tournament – something Steve McClaren, Fabio Capello and Roy Hodgson also failed to better with Rooney in the side.
He said: “I just feel the managers we had were good, but if you’re asking were they at a level of a Spain or German manager, or Italian manager?
“You look at the Italian side who won the World Cup, quality-wise I don’t think they were as good as a few teams in the tournament, but just tactically they knew what they were doing, they knew their jobs and knew everything, and I think we were just one step behind with that.”
Watch Gary Neville’s full interview with Wayne Rooney on Sky Sports On Demand from 7pm on Thursday night – plus find out more about the Wayne Rooney Foundation and how to donate