As the backlash against David Beckham and Sven Goran Eriksson rages this weekend, one member of the England team is emerging from Euro 2004 as a clear winner. Both the England captain and coach have been lampooned in the press and on the internet, with calls for both to resign after the defeat by Portugal on Thursday.
But the dazzling performances of teenage prodigy Wayne Rooney, who outshone his team-mates on the pitch, should see him earning more in sponsorship deals than Beckham within a year, marketing analysts are predicting.
Some commentators say Beckham's poor displays at Euro 2004 have seen his commercial value decrease by as much as half, so that the "galactico" who plays for Real Madrid will be eclipsed by the 18-year-old from Croxteth off the field as well as on it.
Both are hurting - Rooney with a broken metatarsal just like his captain had at the last World Cup, and Beckham with wounded pride - but it could be the older player whose suffering lasts longest.
Last night, PR agent Max Clifford said the captain's disappointing tournament was just another part of what was rapidly becoming an "annus horribilis" for Beckham. He was already beset by allegations about his private life.
"His image has been devalued in practical terms," said Mr Clifford. "If his people are renegotiating sponsorship contracts, they will be looking at 50 per cent less now. But Rooney has emerged as one of the main stars of the tournament. By the end of next season he could be earning a lot more off the pitch than Beckham."
Beckham is currently believed to earn around £15m a year in endorsements off the field. His main sponsors include Adidas, Vodafone and Police sunglasses.
Rooney's sponsorships are currently worth an estimated £3m, including deals with Nike, Coca-Cola and Pringles, but that figure will rocket following his energetic performances at Euro 2004.
Nigel Currie, director of sports marketing agency the GEM Group, said: "From a player's point of view, Rooney has done fantastically well, but for Beckham it's been a poor performance. Obviously, that is going to have an effect on his marketability."
Jon Smith, chief executive of First Artist Corporation, a leading sports marketing agency with 250 footballers on its books, said it was not necessarily all doom and gloom for the England captain.
"A lot will depend on how the media react," Mr Smith said. "If they get on Beckham's back and say his star has fallen, it will have an effect.
"It's not cataclysmic for him. He still stood up to take that first penalty and he's still a national hero." Beckham would not necessarily be in direct competition with Rooney in terms of commercial deals, Mr Smith said.
"Rooney and Beckham are not the same product - they can both comfortably cohabit in the marketplace," Mr Smith said. "Rooney has a sporting appeal, whereas Beckham's is both sporting and lifestyle.
"Rooney has done fantastically well, and will get millions of pounds from sponsorship, as long as he keeps his feet on the ground - broken or not."
Rooney's round-faced looks have seen him jokingly likened to the cartoon ogre Shrek. But worse has been dished out to Beckham. In comparisons that would have been inconceivable six months ago, Beckham has found himself portrayed by fans as Donkey, Shrek's dull-brained sidekick.
A WALK ROUND WAYNE'S WORLD
The Beckham tour - Chingford, Beckingham Palace and Old Trafford - is old hat. In honour of England's new hero, the 'IoS' blazes the Wayne Rooney Heritage Trail - a stroll through the short life of the Everton superstar
1 The house he grew up in: He recently bought the house in Croxteth from the council and has spent £10,000 renovating it for his cousin, who is moving in soon.
2 The school (Parkstile Lane, Croxteth): The headteacher at Our Lady & St Swithin's primary school, Tony McCaul, was Rooney's first football coach.
3 The local (Storrington Avenue, Croxteth): The Western Approaches is the Rooney family local, where they watched his progress in Euro 2004. According to the regulars, Rooney came in often but never drank - not even soft drinks.
4 The discovery (Long Lane, Fazakerly): It was at Jeffreys Humble playing fields in Fazakerly in 1994, that Everton scout Bob Pendleton first spotted Rooney, then aged eight.
5 Everton FC, (Goodison Park): Two years ago Rooney announced his arrival here with a stunning winner against Arsenal.
6 The fight (Edge Lane, Kensington): The normally sedate Devonshire House Hotel entered Rooney folklore when an 18th birthday party for his fiancée, Colleen McLoughlin (pictured far left), descended into a near riot. Neither Colleen nor Wayne was involved.
7 The luxury home (Formby): It is just a 20-minute drive from Croxteth to Rooney's new house in Formby - but the places couldn't be more different. The new house is a six-bed, £900,000 mansion with outdoor pool. The house is protected by a 7ft-high wall and wrought iron gates.
8 The beach (Formby): On a clear day, from Formby beach you can see the mountains of Snowdonia to the south and Blackpool Tower to the north. It is here that Rooney takes his dog, a chow called Fizz, for walks.
- More about:
- David Beckham
- Los Angeles Galaxy
- Stephen Carter
- Sven-goran Eriksson
- Wayne Rooney