Wayne Rooney could go on to become "one of the all-time greats", according to former England striker Gary Lineker.
The 18-year-old Everton FC forward shone at the Estádio da Luz last night, scoring twice as England reached the UEFA EURO 2004™ quarter-finals with a 4-2 victory over Croatia. Those strikes leave Rooney as the leading scorer in the finals with four goals and had Lineker describing him as "the best player in the tournament so far".
'He's been wonderful'
Lineker, who was the top scorer at the 1986 FIFA World Cup, told euro2004.com today: "I think he's been wonderful in this tournament. When you look at his age and what he is doing it's remarkable. The truth is he's probably been the best player in the tournament so far.
"When you think he's just about the youngest player here, it shows how incredibly talented he is. He could end up being one of the all-time greats." Ahead of these finals, Lineker had predicted Rooney could become "the best England player of my lifetime", an opinion reinforced by the teenager's explosion of talent here in Portugal.
"I was a poacher, a goalscorer but he's one of those creative players who can score goals for himself," he added. "He does not need a team to create goals for him." Lineker, like Rooney today, was an Everton player when he scored his six goals at Mexico '86. He went on to become his country's second-highest scorer with 48 goals from 80 appearances between 1984 and 1992.
England coach Sven-Göran Eriksson has likened Rooney's impact here to that of the legendary Pelé at the 1958 World Cup and Lineker added: "Of course, there are a lot of pitfalls and players don't always develop as you think they will, but if he looks after himself who knows what he will become. If we are talking about pure football ability there is no problem."
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