England’s Wayne Rooney: From Hero to Zero?

| by Ian Palmer

The world hasn’t exactly come crashing down on England and Manchester United soccer star Wayne Rooney just yet, but the 25-year-old striker is definitely noticing that skies are getting slightly darker.

The latest cloud on the horizon appeared when Coca-Cola announced on Oct. 4 that Rooney's image won’t be adorning any cans and bottles of its Coke Zero product in the near future due to some recent unsavory allegations and photos concerning the soccer star’s private life.

Rooney was allegedly photographed after a night out of drinking in England, smoking and urinating in an alley, but that was largely dismissed. However, things got a little more serious when it was reported that he supposedly paid for a 21-year-old prostitute several times while his wife Coleen was carrying their unborn child.

Coke took notice and said it amended marketing plans in September on Coke Zero and didn’t feel it was a good idea to use Rooney’s likeness on promotional cans and bottles. However, they didn’t say if it was permanent and Rooney’s image will still be featured in other types of promotions for the company. Coca-Cola has been using Rooney to help promote its products since 2007 and he’s reportedly earning about $800,000 a year from the largest soft-drink maker in the world.

Rooney has struggled both on and off the pitch in recent months. He had a brutal World Cup in South Africa during the summer after scoring 34 goals last season and has only managed to hit the net once this season, and that came from a penalty kick. After the news about his alleged cheating broke, United manager Sir Alex Ferguson sat Rooney out of an English Premier League game against his former club Everton. Fergie said he was afraid Rooney would be subjected to too much abuse from the fans.

Ferguson has also pleaded with the ruthless British media to take it easy on his star player so he can focus on playing for United and England. Ferguson then sat Rooney out of the club’s most recent game, a 0-0 draw in Sunderland on Oct. 3 after claiming he was injured, even though Rooney said he was fit enough to play.

Rooney admitted he’s just human and the details of his private life becoming public were hurting his performance. British newspapers reported on Oct. 3 that Rooney and his wife have taken off for Prague to try and work things out while she’s there on a four-day modelling shoot.

How quickly things can change in the world of sports. Rooney was on top of the football world only eight months ago -- and now he can't even get in a game.

Of course, it works both ways. Although he's looked lost on the pitch for a few months, Rooney could turn things around with one golden goal -- and return to his position as one of the world's most exciting players.

Thanks to our friends at World Sports Exchange for this article.