England captain Wayne Rooney reacted with dignified defiance when he found himself under the microscope on the eve of his side’s Euro 2016 opener against Russia.
A Russian journalist put it to Rooney at Friday’s pre-match press conference at Marseille’s Stade Velodrome that he is “not the same player he was”, suggesting this was a widely held opinion within his country - up to and including the national side.
The Manchester United forward, who has been known to react indiscreetly on the pitch in years gone by, was the model of restraint but made his point clearly: he may be a different kind of performer but he does not see himself as a less effective one.
“Everyone who watches football is entitled to opinions,” he offered.
“I know the qualities I have and to be honest I don’t need to sit here and defend myself.
“I’ve played this game for a lot of years.
“ I’m aware that my game has changed slightly over the years and in my opinion it has changed for the better.
“The opinions which matter to me are those of my coaches and my team-mates.
“I never said I’ve changed my position; I’ve changed my game slightly.
“I’ve seen players and played with players who have changed what they did and become better players.
2That’s natural. I’ve played in midfield for the last few months at United, and it’s a natural way in football. It happens.
“I feel with my football intelligence, I can play there and further my career there as well.
“I love playing for England and I will give everything I have for the cause and I want us to go as far as we can,” he added.