Ending the argument: Why Wayne Rooney must go to Euro 2012
As Wayne Rooney returns to making headlines for the right reason with two Champions League goals against Otelul Galati, Declan Warrington explains why the Manchester United star must be included in Fabio Capello's squad for Euro 2012, despite his three-match ban...
Within Fabio CapelloÃ¢ÂÂs current mess there exists a wider dysfunction: an over-reliance upon individuals, a lack of a Plan B and an inherent lack of character.
The confirmation, then, that Wayne Rooney is suspended for the Euro 2012 group stages has potentially devastating consequences.
England are already a side with the flexibility and predictability of a freight train. Removing their best player - one of the few with a capricious quality to his play - suddenly strips them of the last dregs of spontaneity that could just conjure a first tournament highlight since Euro 2004.
Succeeding in international football entails navigating a process of fine lines and small percentages. The ability to create something above and beyond that of a mere mortal can make the crucial difference and quite rightly ensures the likes of Paul Gascoigne and Dennis Bergkamp are firmly written into the annals of tournament football history. Rooney, far more than any other England player, has the ability to join them.
The arguments against his inclusion are as futile as they are mystifying. If England are to have any chance of reaching the semi-finals - a genuine achievement if not lofty ambition - Rooney has to be involved. Those arguments are based on the concept that a squad place would be wasted and therefore better served by a striker who can be picked for the first three games, an argument that may have substantial substance were it not for England's shortage of genuine forward options.
At Euro 96, Terry Venables opted to select Alan Shearer, Teddy Sheringham, Robbie Fowler and Les Ferdinand, leaving out Andy Cole, Peter Beardsley, Stan Collymore, Chris Sutton and Ian Wright. Fabio Capello has no such luxury.
In Danny Welbeck, Daniel Sturridge, Theo Walcott and Andy Carroll, England have promise and potential, but little more. Darren Bent is a prolific domestic goalscorer but still unproven at the highest level, Jermain Defoe isn't a Tottenham regular and Peter Crouch is clearly not to Capello's liking.
Consequently it can be safely assumed that Capello will include four strikers in his final squad. Bent is currently in pole position to be one, Welbeck and Carroll - who Capello has admitted to liking - are likely to be two more. Sturridge looks set to have the biggest future of that group but he doesn't provide a drastically different option to either Bent or Welbeck, making Rooney the outstanding candidate for the fourth spot (with Walcott likely to go as a winger, rather than central striker).
For Capello, being limited to three strikers represents risking England's chances of advancing beyond their group. Ignoring this isn't something that comes naturally to the Italian's deep-rooted conservatism - his reputation has been built upon successes achieved by trusting experienced, reliable performers instead of gambling on the promise and captivations of youth Ã¢ÂÂ but itÃ¢ÂÂs a calculated gamble given RooneyÃ¢ÂÂs standing as a player within the context of viable alternatives.
With Rooney's inclusion comes the experience of two World Cups, a European Championship, three Champions League finals and seven full seasons at one of club football's elite.
Beyond his on-pitch qualities is his popularity within the England squad - a player adored for his enthusiasm for the game and for entertaining others is one that cannot be instantly dismissed within the monotonous restrictions of Camp Capello. Therein also lays the possibility that this figure - a victim of UEFAÃ¢ÂÂs harsh punishment - could incite among his team-mates an inner anger at a perceived injustice and nurture a siege mentality from which they could grow.
Ultimately, EnglandÃ¢ÂÂs manager finds himself in an unenviable Ã¢ÂÂcatch 22Ã¢ÂÂ of prodigious proportions. Leaving Rooney at home would mean any failure beyond the group stage would be blamed upon his absence - taking him, however, means any failures will likely be attributed to the distractions of his presence.
If it is as a team unit that EnglandÃ¢ÂÂs greatest problems become apparent - sterile, passionless, joyless football, bereft of invention and technical prowess - then removing Rooney, the driven playground footballer and a technician of the very highest caliber, is an exercise in exacerbation.
There was a time when it was wrongly assumed one player could make all the difference for England. In 2002 and 2006, broken metatarsals ensured panic-stricken build-ups to two World Cups when the potential absence of an individual - first David Beckham and then Rooney Ã¢ÂÂ was thought to denote the end of any English hopes.
Then, England had a stronger side and others with the ability to compensate - Scholes and Owen in 2002, Gerrard or Lampard four years later. Now, with WilshereÃ¢ÂÂs fitness a doubt and GerrardÃ¢ÂÂs decline regrettably debatable, RooneyÃ¢ÂÂs importance is unparalleled.
An injury against Portugal in 2004 stole his international equilibrium and it has yet to be recovered. Rooney has work to do at this level - he has to be given a chance to do it.
Follow Declan Warrington on Twitter @decwarrington