Wayne Rooney travelled to Switzerland on Monday for England’s Euro 2012 qualifier despite being engulfed by lurid tabloid reports about his private life.
The 24-year-old Manchester United star was reported to be distraught by weekend revelations detailing his liaisons with a prostitute while his wife was pregnant, but nevertheless remain in the squad for Tuesday’s game.
Local media reports showed Rooney boarding the plane with his England team-mates as they left for Basel on Monday.
The Times newspaper reported earlier that manager Fabio Capello would make a series of checks on Rooney’s state of mind before assessing whether he was in the right frame of mind to line up against the Swiss.
The newspaper cited unidentified sources as saying Rooney was “devastated” by the impact the reports had had on his family. The Daily Mirror reported wife Coleen as being “torn apart” by the revelations.
The Times reported sources within the England camp as saying that while Rooney had trained on Sunday, he had clearly been affected by the reports and distracted by his attempts to resolve the issue.
The turmoil surrounding England’s best player has come at an inconvenient time for Capello, who had been left purring on Friday after Rooney played a starring role in his team’s 4-0 defeat of Bulgaria in their Group G opener.
England midfielder James Milner declined to be drawn on his team-mate’s state of mind but said the squad was firmly behind their talisman and wanted him to take to the field against Switzerland.
“I think you want the best players out on the field and he’s obviously one of them. He showed that the other night,” Milner said. “He’s a top, top player and you want to put out the strongest team possible.”
The Rooney revelations dominated both the front and back pages of British newspapers on Monday, with several commentators seizing on the affair as the explanation for the striker’s poor performances at the World Cup.
Daily Mirror columnist Oliver Holt said Rooney’s “knowledge and worry” about the impact the revelations would have on his family had been hanging over the striker in South Africa.
“It is the most convincing explanation for why the Wayne Rooney we saw in South Africa was so far removed from the player who has grown into England’s most exciting talent since Paul Gascoigne,” he wrote.
Other newspapers speculated that the affair would hamper the FA’s attempts to find a new sponsor for the national team, with businesses wary of linking their brands to a squad of players involved in a series of sex scandals.
However Rooney received some good news on Monday when sponsor Nike confirmed they were standing by the player.
“We have worked with Wayne for seven years and he continues to be a Nike athlete,” a spokesman for Nike said. “This is a private matter for Wayne and his family and we have no further comment to make at this time.”
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