WAYNE ROONEY has revealed why he kept the ball from the 2011 Champions League final despite losing to Barcelona.
The reason was Lionel Messi.
England’s all-time top goalscorer explained how he felt he was “part of something special” after sharing a spot with “the greatest player of all time”.
And now the former United striker, now 37, has doubled down on his statement.
Rooney wrote in The Times: “Only once in my career have I walked home from a game with the match point where I didn’t get it for a hat-trick.
“That was the 2011 Champions League final when Barcelona beat Manchester United in one of the best team performances I’ve ever seen.
“In the end I grabbed the ball and went looking for Lionel Messi, David Villa and Pedro – Barcelona’s goalscorers.
“I got them to sign it and as United goalscorer I put my own signature on it too. I still have the ball at my house.
“Why should I do such a thing? We had lost a final and I was disappointed, but I also felt like I was part of something special.
“It felt like I’d just shared a seat with some of the greatest players to have ever played. Barcelona were amazing and Messi was the catalyst for it all.”
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“In 2012 I wrote the following on Twitter: ‘Messi is a joke. For me the best ever.’
“On Wednesday morning, after seeing him lead Argentina to the World Cup final with a masterclass against Croatia, I retweeted it saying, ‘Nothing has changed.'”
Messi, 35, scored twice on Sunday as he finally got his hands on the World Cup trophy.
The Argentina captain helped lead his team past France to victory on penalties.
Rooney has previously mentioned that he rates the Argentine hero higher than Cristiano Ronaldo.
And the Englishman added: “I have the utmost respect for Cristiano and when people say he’s the greatest, I know where they come from and I respect that opinion.
“But for me Messi is just different. I’ve played against him several times and it’s his ability to take and hold the ball, control games, run towards players, pass and score and make the difference.
“Close, you just can’t get close to him. He’s always in control. When he has the ball at his feet, he dictates everything, including your decision-making.
“Being his opponent is a difficult place. You want to go and put pressure on him, but you know that if you do that, you won’t win the ball.”
“There are times when you can attack him, like when he dribbles straight at you, but usually you just won’t dispossess him.”
https://www.the-sun.com/sport/6951829/rooney-match-ball-man-utd-champions-league-messi/ Wayne Rooney reveals why he kept the ball after Man Utd’s 3-1 Champions League final defeat by Barcelona