The former Everton midfielder was at Goodison Park when a modern-day great burst onto the scene and admits to having spotted potential early
Wayne Rooney, Manchester United and England’s all-time leading goalscorer, had everyone believing he would be “special” from the moment he burst onto the scene at Everton, says Leon Osman.
An exciting teenage talent announced himself to the world when scoring a stunning Premier League effort for the Toffees against Arsenal in October 2002.
Rooney was just 16 at the time, but he had been registering on the radar of those around him at Goodison Park for some time prior to his senior breakthrough.
Osman formed part of the Toffees fold at that time and says he always knew that a man who has gone on to cement a standing as a modern-day great was destined to reach the very top.
“From the moment he walked into the training ground you knew he was going to be special,” Osman told The Sportsman.
“Already, physically developed; I’m four or five years older than him and he was already bigger and more powerful than me so you knew he was going to be a player. Even when he was 14, there were videos going round of ridiculous things he was doing in youth cup matches.
“One of the moments you go out before training to get warm, players having a chuckle and passing the ball and Wayne would just charge out and claim he’s going to hit the crossbar from the halfway line, something I couldn’t think about and he took it, hit the bar and you think ‘Who’s this kid here?! No chance, that’s a fluke.’ Then he did it again, twice on the run. Who is this kid?”
Rooney would take in 77 senior appearances for Everton before securing a £25 million ($29m) move to United in the autumn of 2004.
A record-breaking haul of 253 goals was recorded with the Red Devils, while taking his tally of England efforts up to 53 in 120 international outings.
Osman insists those exploits came as no surprise to him, with a fellow product of the Toffees’ academy system saying: “No, none at all.
“There was disappointment we couldn’t keep him at Everton longer than we did but he’s gone on to be Manchester United’s all-time scorer, he’s England’s current record goalscorer, he was always going to achieve things.”
Rooney is back in English football with Championship side Derby having taken in a second stint at Everton and a productive 18-month spell in MLS with D.C. United after leaving United in 2017.