LONDON COLNEY - England manager Fabio Capello and defender Rio Ferdinand praised Wayne Rooney on Tuesday after the 23-year-old striker was named England's 2008 Player of the Year in a fans' poll. Rooney will become the youngest England player to reach 50 caps if he plays as expected against Ukraine in Wednesday's World Cup Group Six qualifier at Wembley and is enjoying a rich spell of form with seven goals in his last four internationals. "Rooney is one of the best players in the world," Capello told reporters at England's training base north of London. "He never played for the Under-21s. He jumped and only the extra special players can do that. "I remember when (Manchester United manager) Alex Ferguson bought him, I saw him at a UEFA meeting in Nyon. He said 'Fabio, I am crazy. I have just spent an awful lot of money on a very young player'. "Now he is happy because he spent a lot of money on a very important player," added Capello, who last week called Rooney his "crazy joker in the pack". BEST PLAYER Ferdinand, who is also expected to play against Ukraine after missing Saturday's 4-0 friendly win over Slovakia with a back injury, also praised his United team mate for his recent England performances. "The good thing is that when Wayne is confident and playing well, there are not many better sights in football. He is vital and if he is doing the right things, it is only good for us," the defender told reporters. "To see that hunger and desire in him to be a better player only bodes well for England's future -- and he is still only 23. "Wayne is an integral member of our squad. He is beginning to play consistently well for England and he is improving in the right way." Ferdinand added that Rooney had probably been England's "best player by a distance" on Saturday. "He was doing the things that the manager asked of him, picking the ball up in dangerous areas and putting people in on goal and getting chances on goal, and he got a couple for himself," he said. England top Group Six with 12 points after winning their opening four matches, while Ukraine are third with seven points from their three games and are the only other unbeaten team in the group.
31 March 2009
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