Saunders claims Wayne Rooney could play for Southampton or West Ham

Liverpool 2-0 Sunderland, FA Cup Final, Wembley Stadium, Saturday 9th May 1992. Dean Saunders.

Wayne Rooney has signed for Derby County but could he have still made an impact in the Premier League with West Ham United or Southampton?

DC United midfielder and former England captain Wayne Rooney (R) and Derby County's Dutch manager Phillip Cocu shake hands  during a press conference at Pride Park Stadium in Derby on...

Dean Saunders believes new Derby County signing Wayne Rooney still has the ‘class’ to play in the Premier League, and he has told talkSPORT that the former England captain would still walk into the starting XIs of West Ham United and Southampton.

In one of the most surprising moves anywhere in the transfer window, Rooney agreed a January return to English football with second tier Derby after establishing himself as a modern-day MLS legend with DC United.

One year after bidding farewell to Everton for the second time, you might have thought we had seen the last of Manchester United’s record goal-scorer on British shores.


But Derby obviously feel that Rooney still has plenty to offer on and off the pitch, handing the veteran striker an initial 18-month contract in the rather unfamiliar player-coach role.

Doubts have been raised about whether the five-time Premier League champion has the pace and the fitness levels required to thrive in the Championship but Saunders, a former Liverpool and Aston Villa striker, believes Rooney shouldn’t have to drop down to the lower leagues, even in the autumn years of his career.

“Ryan Giggs played in the middle of midfield for Man United at 38. Once you’ve got class, it’s permanent. I think he’d get in West Ham’s team, he’d get in Southampton’s team,” Saunders told the Alan Brazil Sports Breakfast on talkSPORT (12 August, 9.30am).

Wayne Rooney #9 of D.C. United reacts in the second half against the Vancouver Whitecaps during his MLS debut at Audi Field on July 14, 2018 in Washington, DC.

“Derby have got a great signing. It’s magnificent for Derby. I think he can still play in the Premier League for a couple of years. His experience, his brain and his actual talent, he could still get a game.

“Ask West Ham and Southampton fans, who’ve had signings who cost loads of money and contributed nothing, who they’d rather have lining up on Saturday.”

Saunders point probably falls apart, however, when you consider how Rooney’s time at Manchester United and Everton fizzled out in recent seasons.

A forward of 120 international caps rolled back the years at Goodison Park with fabulous performances against Manchester City and West Ham themselves, scoring a hat-trick against the latter, but his lack of pace often left him chasing shadows at the top level.

Wayne Rooney of Everton celebrates after scoring his sides first goal during the Premier League match between Everton and West Ham United at Goodison Park on November 29, 2017 in Liverpool,...

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