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England boss Southgate's Rooney tribute

England manager Gareth Southgate has congratulated Wayne Rooney on a "fantastic international career" after the Everton striker announced his national team retirement.

Rooney announced on Wednesday that he was ending his international career at the age of 31 after scoring 53 goals in 119 appearances.

Southgate had hoped to include Rooney in his squad for the forthcoming World Cup qualifiers against Malta and Slovakia.

A sight we'll never see again - Rooney in an England shirt Credit: PA Pictures

But when he phoned Rooney he instead heard that England's all-time record goalscorer wanted to concentrate on club football.

"I know I speak for everyone when I congratulate him on a fantastic international career," Southgate told a press conference broadcast on Sky Sports News.

Southgate on Rooney: ''A fantastic international career.'' Credit: PA Pictures

Southgate added: "He said he had been thinking long and hard about the decision and he had decided he was going to announce his international retirement.

"I definitely was thinking of including him in the squad. I thought there was a role that he could play for the squad but by the same token I fully understand his rationale."

Southgate paid tribute to Rooney's contribution to England and also gave his thoughts over the debate about his status for the national team.

"It would be a good moment to recognise what an outstanding player he has been for England," Southgate added.

"I have seen some debate around 'is he a legend or isn't he?'. If you are the most capped outfield player and the record goalscorer I'm not sure what else you have to do to be called a legend.''

Southgate also left the door open for a possible Rooney return to the England squad.

"I said the door was always open and because of the way he has been playing at the beginning of the season he is in the right frame of mind, that's why I made the call this time.

"I don't see why you ever shut the door on anything as players."