How Wayne Rooney stacks up against the great Bobby Charlton?

The international records of Wayne Rooney and Sir Bobby Charlton are, incredibly, identical (Getty) Source: Getty Images

England captain Wayne Rooney is on the verge of becoming his country's record goalscorer after drawing level with Sir Bobby Charlton on 49 goals - and yet many question whether the Manchester United ace has lived up to his potential.

Remarkably, Rooney and Charlton have played the same number of games for those 49 goals - 106 - during international careers that spanned 12 years. 

And both have left their mark at the Theatre of Dreams, Old Trafford - Charlton for 17 years between 1956 and 1973, which yielded 249 goals in 758 games, and Rooney for 11 years and counting, with 233 goals in 485 games.

At only 29, Rooney, who could set a new mark this Wednesday (AEST) when he leads Roy Hodgson's out for the UEFA EURO 2016 Qualifier against Switzerland, has more than a few years left in the tank so The World Game has taken a look at how he compares to the legendary Charlton - and those the pair have left in their wake. 

Wayne Rooney

Rooney made his debut against Australia in the Socceroos' famous 3-1 win against England at Upton Park in 2003.

Now he is only one goal away from joining the elite club of players that have scored 50 international goals, and from becoming the top goalscorer of all-time for England.

Rooney is the youngest deubtant (17 years, 111 days) and goalscorer (17 years, 317 days) for the Three Lions, and he will captain his country at UEFA EURO 2016 in France next year. 

He burst onto the international scene at EURO 2004 and scored four goals in four games, before breaking his foot against Portugal in the quarter-final. It arguably cost England its best chance of winning a major tournament since the 1966 World Cup win on home soil.

During Rooney's international career, England has disappointed at three successive World Cup and again at EURO 2012, however his status as an England all-time great is not in doubt.

Sir Bobby Charlton

Charlton is a rare breed - an England FIFA World Cup winner. 

Nobody can take 1966 away from England or Charlton, who scored twice in the tournament and helped to mark Franz Beckenbauer out of the match in the final, which England won 4-2 after extra time at Wembley.

Charlton also played in the 1958, 1962, and 1970 FIFA World Cups and the 1968 European Championship.

Charlton was cavalier and robust, a swashbuckling all-action attacking midfilders/forwards with a rapier-like shot and a sharp eye for goal.

You could say he was a similar player to Rooney, only 40 years earlier. Charlton himself certainly agreed.

"Wayne Rooney is like I was. So enthusiastic. Sometimes he explodes, but more and more you see him trying to curb it, going in and then stepping back to get himself out of trouble," Charlton told The Guardian.

"He's lovely. His enthusiasm, his ability, and he's not afraid. Like me, he's behind the goalkeeper sometimes. He doesn't want to be on the fringe of the game, he wants to be at the heart of it. All the time. I've a lot of time for Wayne Rooney."

For now, they are equal but Charlton will allow himself a smile that a player so similar to himself is the one to break a record that has stood for 45 years.

Gary Lineker

Now host of BBC's iconic football program, Match of the Day, Gary Lineker was the master goalscorer long before he took up a place on the sofa.

Lineker scored for fun wherever he went -103 goals in 216 appearances for Leicester City, 38 in 52 for Everton, 52 in 137 for Spanish giant Barcelona, and 80 in 138 for Tottenham Hotspur. 

The step up to international level made little difference and Lineker plundered 48 goals in 80 games during an eight-year England career.

Sir Geoff Hurst scored England's first FIFA World Cup hat-trick in the 1966 final, and Lineker scored the second, against Poland at the 1986 tournament. He went on to win the Golden Boot with six goals.

Lineker scored four goals at FIFA World Cup 1990 in Italy and retired from international duty after the European Championship in 1992. He was substituted in his final match, against Sweden, leaving him one shy of Charlton's tally.

Jimmy Greaves

Another freak goalscorer from another era.

Greaves plundered goals for Chelsea, AC Milan, Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham United, and of course, England.

Between 1959 and 1967, Greaves found the back of the net 44 times in just 57 international appearances, before retiring from international football after a win against Austria in May 1967 - at the ripe old age of 27!

He had lost his place as England's main striker to Hurst, after he was injured in the group stage of the 1966 FIFA World Cup 1966, and after the tournament he played only thrice more for his country before pulling the pin. It was a sad, and premature end to what could have been one of the great international careers. 

In fact, Greaves was fit for the final against West Germany but coach Alf Ramsey kept faith with Hurst, who went on to score one of football's most historic hat-tricks.

Greaves only received a World Cup winners' medal in 2009 after a change to FIFA regulations, which allowed non-playing members to be given medals. He later sold it at auction for $100,000.

Michael Owen

The boy wonder before Rooney, Owen also announced himself as a fresh faced 18-year-old at a major tournament. 

Owen scored for fun in his heydey, before he was cast aside ruthlessly by Fabio Capello in 2008. In the decade to that point though, he scored 40 goals in 89 matches, 10 more than Alan Shearer, Nat Lofthouse, and Tom Finney, and in the same lofty echelon as Charlton, Rooney, Lineker, and Greaves.

His goal against Argentina at the 1998 FIFA World Cup was the stuff of folklore, as the youngster left Argentina's defence in his wake before scoring with the perfect finish. 

France '98 came off the back of a 1997-1998 season that saw Owen replace fellow Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler as the Reds' first-choice striker, winning the Golden Boot in the process. 

A Liverpool career in which he amassed 158 goals in 297 games brought a transfer to Real Madrid, where his single season in Spain reaped 16 goals in 45 games. 

His career began to unravel as his dodgy hamstrings restricted him to only 79 games for Newcastle United in four seasons, followed by an Indian summer at Manchester United, where his late derby winner also entered Old Trafford folklore. 

A single goal for Stoke City in 2012-2013 brought the curtain down on a career that had peaked more than a decade earlier, when Owen was one of Europe's most lethal marksmen.

Source SBS