David Beckham is tipping Wayne Rooney to capture the greatest honours in the game later this year.
While Beckham did not enjoy seeing Rooney give Manchester United a massive advantage over AC Milan in their last-16 Champions League clash, the former United star is thrilled at the exploits of his old club's current hero.
Beckham hopes to be sharing a dressing room with the 24-year-old in South Africa later this summer, and also wants to watch him be crowned the number one player on the planet.
"I hope he is a contender for the World Player of the Year and the Ballon D'Or,'' Beckham said. "I would love to see him win every title possible. I have seen Wayne from being a young lad. I played in his debut for England and I have watched him score goals week in and week out ever since. It is amazing to see.''
Beckham's view of Rooney's exploits was rather too close for his liking last night as United won 3-2 in the San Siro. Rooney's second-half brace took his tally for the season to 25 and left the Red Devils needing only to avoid a heavy defeat in the second leg in a fortnight's time to advance to the last eight.
"I wouldn't want to see him do it again against us in a few weeks but of course I'd like it in the World Cup,'' Beckham added.
The unspoken fear about Rooney is that because he has played so well, for so long this season, by the time England compete to be crowned world champions this summer he will have burned himself out or suffered the kind of injury which wrecked Beckham's World Cup in 2002 and Rooney's four years later, when the curse of the metatarsal struck again.
Injury is a constant hazard for any player but Beckham scoffs at the threat of burn out. "Burn out will not be a problem,'' he said. "Of course he can sustain that level until the middle of July. He should be able to. He is only 24.
"He looks after himself and works hard. The way he plays is the way he trains. That is why he is so good and why Wayne is ready for any game. It doesn't matter how many games he has played or how many he will be involved in to the end of the season, he will be ready for anything.''
And, from his unique vantage point, Beckham can confirm it is not case of England getting carried away with one of its own, as tends to happen in the Premier League, where the frenetic pace can often mask technical deficiencies. Beckham knows from playing in Italy that Rooney is regarded as the real deal.
"Wayne Rooney is looked upon as a great player in Italy,'' he said. "What Italian people care about is whether forwards are doing the right things and scoring goals. They love people who work hard. That is what they see in Wayne.
"I have always felt he is one of the best goalscorers in the world. If he continues the way he is going then Manchester United will be even more successful than they are already.''
Beckham should have a chance to discuss the matter with Rooney in more depth ahead of England's friendly with Egypt at Wembley on March 3. One of his old team-mates is expected to be captain for that encounter with the African Nations Cup winners, with Rio Ferdinand set to replace John Terry, who was sacked following allegations about his private life.
As someone with vast experience of captaining his country, Beckham knows what demands it can place on the incumbent. But he is certain Ferdinand can carry the role off with ease.
"Rio is a great captain,'' he said. "He has proved he has been a great captain when he has captained Manchester United in the past. He is a leader.''