England captain David Beckham has warned Wayne Rooney not to risk his long-term future by rushing his return from injury.
Beckham said it would be a major blow if Rooney failed to recover from his broken foot in time for the World Cup.
But he told the Sunday Times newspaper:
“Wayne’s one of the best, if not the best, in our team. Of course we’d rather have Wayne in our team. But he can’t take risks. He’s a young player with a huge future.”
Rooney stepped up his training this week – cycling at Manchester United’s Carrington training ground – and his club doctor said the 20-year-old was taking positive steps on his road to recovery.
But Beckham warned his international team-mate still needed “to be careful“.
“He’s got to make sure he’s fit and that he’s not going to go and crack it again,” said the Real Madrid midfielder. I know what Wayne’s like. He’ll want to be there – he’ll be wanting to be playing straight away. But I do think the important part is for him to get fit. He has to look after himself. If he’s not right, he can’t take risks.”
Beckham was criticised for not being fully match fit at the last World Cup, having taken seven weeks to recover from a similar injury to that of Rooney’s.
He defended his decision to play at the 2002 tournament but said that, regardless of whether Rooney was fit, England would arrive with the “most confident team” he has ever known.
“There’s a lot been said about it (Wayne’s injury) and the team has to concentrate, of course,” he said. “But we have got other great players – world-class players.”