Wayne Rooney: England’s greatest striker?

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Wayne Rooney nets 50th goal, eclipsing Bobby Charlton's England goalscoring record

The goal -- a penalty -- comes during Euro 2016 qualifier against Switzerland

CNN  — 

England striker Wayne Rooney etched his name in the record books Tuesday with a penalty at Wembley Stadium, the spiritual home of English football.

The 29-year-old broke Bobby Charlton’s longstanding goals record for England, slotting in his 50th goal for his country in a 2-0 victory over Switzerland in a qualifier for the Euro 2016 tournament in France. Spurs’ Harry Kane scored the other goal in the win.

A few days earlier, he had tied the former Manchester United legend during a turkey-shoot against San Marino but was substituted before he could advance to the magic 50.

“When you create a bit of history, it’s a great feeling, obviously. I’ve been close to it in the last few games and to finally do it is a dream come true. I’m extremely proud,” Rooney said after Tuesday’s match.

“The record is a huge honor because Sir Bobby Charlton is an England and Manchester United legend. I know Sir Bobby will be extremely proud that a Manchester United captain has broken the record.”

Best ever? Maybe not

Amongst Tuesday’s celebrations, some detractors say that his achievements don’t match up to those of his illustrious predecessor.

Charlton, of course, famously lifted the Jules Rimet trophy in 1966, when England won the World Cup on home soil. This achievement, which has so far eluded Rooney, is often cited by Charlton’s supporters as evidence of his superiority. The same distinction is often called into comparisons between Lionel Messi and his compatriot Diego Maradona.

It is also said that too many of Rooney’s goals came against unfancied opponents – such as his strike against San Marino on Saturday – or in meaningless friendlies.

But football is, after all, a team game. And a goal’s a goal, no matter which team it is scored against and under what circumstances.

Charlton himself was magnanimous in conceding the record.

“I would like to congratulate Wayne on becoming England’s leading goalscorer,” he was quoted on Manchester United’s website as saying.

“I have always been very proud to hold this record. Playing for my country was always an honor and a privilege and something I did with great pride.”

Good company

Rooney’s 50th goal elevates him in a pantheon of English strikers that includes Charlton, Gary Lineker (48), Jimmy Greaves (44), and Michael Owen (40).

There have also been 49 own goals unwittingly scored in England matches by hapless opponents – equaling the number scored by Charlton.

Rooney has a way to go before he can break the all-time international record, held by Ali Daei of Iran, with 109, according to football statistics website RSSSF. And 44 other footballers have hit 50 goals or more, including Hungary’s Ferenc Puskas (84), Brazil legends Pele (77) and Ronaldo (62), and American striker Landon Donovan (57).

Rooney’s record-breaking penalty came as Austria booked its place in the finals, joining England, Iceland and the Czech Republic as the teams who have secured qualification.

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