WAYNE ROONEY has revealed why he kept the match ball from the 2011 Champions League final despite losing to Barcelona.
The reason was Lionel Messi.
APRooney kept the match ball from the 2011 Champions League final despite losing to Messi[/caption]
Times Newspapers LtdRooney was left dejected as Barcelona celebrate at the final whistle[/caption]
England’s joint-top-ever goalscorer explained how he felt he was “part of something special” after sharing a pitch with “the best ever” player.
And now the former United striker, now 37, has doubled down on his statement.
Rooney wrote in The Times: “Only once in my career did I go home with the match ball from a game where I wasn’t given it for scoring a hat-trick.
“That was the 2011 Champions League final, when Barcelona beat Manchester United with one of the best team performances I’ve ever seen.
“At the end I grabbed the ball and sought out Lionel Messi, David Villa and Pedro — Barcelona’s scorers.
“I got them to sign it and, as the scorer of United’s goal, put my own signature on it too. I still have the ball in my house.
“Why would I do something like that? We’d lost a final and I was gutted but I also had this sense of having been part of something special.
“It was a feeling that I had just shared a pitch with some of the greatest players who ever played. Barcelona were incredible and Messi was the catalyst for all of it.
“In 2012, I wrote the following on Twitter: ‘Messi is a joke. For me the best ever.’
“On Wednesday morning, after watching him lead Argentina to the World Cup final with a masterclass against Croatia, I retweeted it with the words: ‘Nothing has changed.’”
35-year-old Messi scored twice on Sunday as he finally got his hands on the World Cup trophy.
Rooney has previously mentioned that he rates the Argentina hero above Cristiano Ronaldo.
And the Englishman added: “I have the greatest respect for Cristiano and, when people argue he is the greatest, I know where they are coming from and respect that opinion.
“But, for me, Messi is just different. I played against him several times and it’s his ability to take and hold the ball, to control games, run at players, pass and score and be the difference.
“Close up, you just can’t get near him. He is always in control. If he has the ball at his feet, he determines everything, your decision-making included.
“Being his opponent is a difficult place to be. You want to go and press him but know that if you do, you’re not going to win the ball.
“There are times you can tackle him, like when he is dribbling directly at you, but usually you’re just not going to dispossess him.”