Gary Lineker believes Wayne Rooney will be England’s leading goal-scorer for “a long time” after the Manchester United striker netted a record-breaking 50th international goal against Switzerland.
Rooney’s late penalty in Tuesday’s 2-0 Euro 2016 qualifier at Wembley eclipsed Bobby Charlton’s 45-year-old mark of 49 and left him two goals in front of Lineker, who scored 48 England goals between 1984 and 1992.
With Rooney not yet 30 and the second-highest scorer in the current England set-up, Danny Welbeck, having only scored 14 international goals, Lineker believes it will be a while before the captain’s tally is bettered.
“I think it’ll last a long time,” Lineker, 54, told a group of journalists in London on Wednesday. “We’ve got no-one anywhere near it at the moment, so it’s going to last at least 10 years.
“You’d have to score five, six a year, which is not that easy, so it has to last for a good period of time. Harry Kane might come through and prove to be a very consistent goal-scorer; he might not.
“I would suggest we have a long wait. And he (Rooney) could put it, not out of sight, but into the sixties.”
Lineker praised Rooney’s work ethic and his awareness of space .
While Rooney’s goals have secured his place in English football history, Lineker believes it would be wrong to focus only on his qualities as a marksman.
“There is so much more to his game than goals — a wonderful work ethic, his awareness of space — and he is thoroughly deserving of the record,” said the former Barcelona, Everton and Tottenham Hotspur striker.
“He is a very intelligent footballer. He knows where to go, how to pull defenders out of position, and his movement is top-class. Although he may not have the blistering pace of some, he has terrific speed of thought.
“He is not your quintessential poacher, but because he contributes so much inside and outside the box, he will get you those kind of goals.”
Lineker recently spent time with Rooney during the filming of an intimate documentary about the United captain that is due to be broadcast on British television next month.
Acknowledging that Rooney has not always enjoyed the undivided affection of English fans — the legacy, perhaps, of repeated failings at major tournaments — Lineker hopes the film “will transform the public opinion of him”.
“He’s a decent guy with a lovely family and I think that comes across,” added Lineker, who is now a television presenter with BT Sport.
Lineker missed the opportunity to equal Bobby Charlton’s record when he fluffed a Panenka against Brazil
Lineker famously squandered an opportunity to equal Charlton’s record when he fluffed an attempted ‘Panenka’ penalty during a friendly against Brazil at Wembley in May 1992.
It was to prove the closest he came to matching Charlton’s mark, but he says the only regret from his international career was England’s penalty shootout defeat by West Germany at the 1990 World Cup in Italy.
“If someone had told me when I started my career that I would finish one goal behind Bobby Charlton, I would have said: ‘You are having a laugh,'” he said.
“So I never really thought about it. The only thing I look back on and think ‘if only’ and regret maybe is 1990, winning the penalty shootout and possibly winning the World Cup. That is the thing.
“Obviously I wish I had not been a smartarse and tried to chip the penalty against Brazil. I would have liked to have beaten the record — I’m not suggesting I wouldn’t — but absolutely no regrets.
“I had a wonderful career and I am very lucky.”