(Reuters) – Wayne Rooney, fresh from signing a deal on Tuesday to become a player-coach at Derby County from next January, told reporters that he had always hoped to become a manager once his playing days were over.
The 33-year-old, Manchester United and England’s most prolific scorer, also said he had been excited to see former England team mates Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard make their way in a world usually dominated at the top level by foreign coaches.
Rooney will be following most closely in the footsteps of Lampard, who last season took the team he is set to join all the way to the Championship playoff final. Lampard has now taken over at Chelsea, while Steven Gerrard is in charge of Scottish side Rangers.
Former Manchester United team mate Phil Neville has also impressed as England’s women’s team boss, having recently guided the Lionesses to the World Cup semi-finals.
“It’s great to see them going into management. But it’s not just because of that, I’ve always had an ambition to go into management,” Rooney told reporters.
“It’s great these young English managers are getting the opportunity. Over the past 20 years we haven’t seen it so much. When the time is right, hopefully that’s what I can move into. But … my first aim is to play,” he said.
Rooney will work under Phillip Cocu at Derby, and he said it was a conversation with the Dutchman that convinced him to cut short his stint in the MLS, where he still has two years left on his deal.
“I think once this opportunity arose and I had a decision to make, I spoke with Phillip on the phone. After that I was happy with the situation and wanted to come here,” Rooney added.
“I want to learn off Phillip and his staff to gain experience for when I do stop playing and take that next step.”
Cocu said the former Manchester United and Everton striker, who will work with academy players and the first team, would be an asset because of his quality and experience.
“The way we work, with a lot of youngsters coming up, (this will) help the club develop, and I think we can help Rooney in his future role in being a coach and a manager,” Cocu said.
“It is a perfect moment to join together and work together.”
(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Hugh Lawson)