'Rooney Doesn't Need An Armband To Be A Leader'

by Paul McNamara
@Everton

Ronald Koeman insists Wayne Rooney does not need the captain's armband to inspire his new Everton teammates.

Rooney will start Thursday night’s Europa League third round qualifying first leg against MFK Ružomberok after shaking off a minor groin problem. It will be the forward’s first match at Goodison since he returned to the Blues earlier this month.

After the 31-year-old signed a two-year deal with Everton, Koeman hailed Rooney as a “proven winner” who would be the perfect role model in the dressing room.

And although the Dutchman has opted to keep Phil Jagielka as captain for the new season – with Gareth Barry and Leighton Baines as understudies – he has no doubt Rooney, who skippered the England team from 2014, will continue to have a big impact on his teammates.

“Even without the captain’s armband, Wayne is one of the captains in the team,” said Koeman. “That is what he is used to doing.

“There is no reason to change the captain, because I am really happy with Phil – and with Gareth and Leighton. I will leave it like that.

“Wayne is a captain on and off the pitch. He does not need the title of captain because he is that type of player who is always involved in making others better, with his communication on the pitch.”

Rooney sustained his niggle in last Saturday’s friendly clash with KRC Genk, when he played 79 minutes and scored Everton’s opening goal in a 1-1 draw.

Koeman is conscious of needing to keep his players fresh during what promises to be a demanding campaign.

“Wayne has shown good fitness,’ the Blues boss added. “He had a little groin problem after the weekend in Belgium but he is fit to start on Thursday.

“That is the first reason to have a strong squad, to deal with all the competitions.

“We need to keep the players fresh – Wayne and the others – and if you have good competition you can rotate. Not in a big way because I do not like that. But you can protect players if you have a lot of games in a short period of time.”

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