When Sir Alex Ferguson revealed that Wayne Rooney had told him he wanted to leave the club, I argued that it was time for the striker to leave, but only if we could sell him to a club abroad. Initially, he was linked with the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, PSG and Monaco in the papers, although it became apparent fairly early on there was nothing in these stories.
Barcelona forked out around £50m for Neymar, PSG paid £55m for Edison Cavani, Monaco signed Radamel Falcao for £51m whilst Real Madrid have made clear that Gareth Bale is their primary transfer target, with figures of £100m being talked about. Even with all this money available, Europe’s biggest spending clubs aren’t interested in signing Rooney, even though his transfer fee could turn out to be quite a bargain this summer, given he clearly wants to leave United and only has two years remaining on his current contract.
The first club to go public with their interest in Rooney was Arsenal, who were mocked by rival fans for celebrating last season’s 4th placed finish like a trophy. If Rooney felt finishing one point behind Chelsea in 2010 was a club that lacks ambition, it would be interesting to know what he thinks of the North London outfit. Still, Arsene Wenger insisted they had money to spend and revealed he was a fan of Rooney. However, it was Real Madrid’s Gonzalo Higuain that the Gunners put in a bid of £22m for, and when he snubbed them for Napoli, they turned their attention to Luis Suarez, and put in an offer of £40m.
Rooney believes he is good enough to start week in week out for the champions of England, even when not playing very well, so it must have stung when a team that finished almost 20 points behind United last season had him at least third in pecking order for the strikers they wanted to sign.
The next club to make their desire to sign Rooney known was Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea. Chelsea legend, Ray Wilkins, was quick to question why Rooney would even consider swapping Old Trafford for Stamford Bridge.
“Once you leave Manchester United there’s only one way you’re going. Man United are in the top three biggest clubs on the planet, therefore they will always buy and buy and buy because they always want to be successful,” he said. “If you want to win things then there’s no better club to be at than Manchester United. So what if you’ve got a bit of competition with Robin van Persie? It’s healthy. He should step up to the plate and show these people what he’s made of. He’s got so much wonderful football left in him. If I was David Moyes there’s no way I would sell him to anyone in England. I’m sorry – he’d have to go abroad. I would love him to join Chelsea though. I would love nothing more than to see Wayne Rooney wearing that blue shirt.”
Initially they offered a paltry £20m for him, then they recently improved this offer to £25m. When you consider the money that Chelsea have spent in the past, particularly with the transfer fees increasing dramatically over the past ten years, it makes you wonder how serious they are about signing Rooney. They valued Torres at £50m, £30m for Shevchenko (7 years ago), £21m for Shaun Wright-Phillips (8 years ago), £17m for Damien Duff (10 years ago), and so on, yet Rooney is a £20m-£25m player for them? They showed no hesitation in splashing £18m on Andre Schurrle earlier this summer, they snapped up Eden Hazard for £32m plus the £6m in agent fees last summer, and were happy to spend £20m on 18-year-old Romelu Lukaku the year before. There was no dilly dallying then. In fact, in the last three transfer windows before this, Chelsea have spent a whopping £280m on players, averaging out at £90m+ each summer. If Rooney had more than two brain cells to rub together, he might wonder why Mourinho hasn’t asked Roman Abramovich for some serious cash to sign him.
It’s not like Chelsea to penny pinch and you imagine that if Mourinho was as keen to sign Rooney as he has made out in press conferences, the deal would have been done by now. He could have gone on the pre-season with them and settled as a part of the squad, as it is, the weeks are passing by and Chelsea play United soon enough, but they are no closer to securing a deal.
Chelsea were sniffing around the likes of Falcao and Cavani when the transfer window opened and they had big money to spend on them. They are clearly superior strikers to Rooney but Chelsea missed out, so now they’re trying their luck. As if United were ever going to accept £20m from a title rival for one of their better players. I’m sure Mourinho would love to take advantage of the player’s current situation, it would make total sense to sign someone who not only improves your squad but weakens the squad of your rivals, but Rooney has never been their prime transfer target. He’s the back up plan after they failed to land the players they really wanted.
It’s funny to think that Rooney was worth more as a teenager, almost ten years ago, totally unproven, than he apparently is now. Aged 27-years-old, at what is meant to be his peak playing age, the best he can muster in a transfer window when he has made it clear he wants to change clubs, is being some way down the list on Chelsea’s ideal transfer targets. None of the best sides in Europe have even attempted to sign him, which must leave Paul Stretford pulling his hair out.
When Rooney last wanted to leave, the masterplan was to fabricate a public row with the manager. Rooney was taken off with an hour played at the Reebok Stadium and was icing his ankle. Ferguson explained his absence from the next game with an ankle injury, but when Rooney was interviewed ahead of an England international, he claimed he hadn’t suffered from any injury. When asked why Ferguson claimed he had been injured, he replied: “I don’t know.”
This time (and maybe I’m being cynical), reports suggested that Rooney was “furious” after being isolated and demoted to train with the Reserves. Without the amount of stories the Rooney camp have been leaking to the press, painting the striker as the victim in all of this, it would come as no surprise if Stretford was behind this. When Moyes was asked about it yesterday, he claimed that Rooney had asked to train with the Reserves as a non-contact player to avoid hurting his sore shoulder. Did Stretford orchestrate Rooney’s training request to further strengthen their case that the club was making the player’s position untenable by excluding him from the first team squad? Who knows.
When Rooney last wanted to leave, claiming the club didn’t match his ambition, he finished the season with a Premier League winner’s medal and a European Cup final goal. He looked foolish and has reiterated how embarrassed he was to make such a claim since.
This time around his problem is a lack of playing time, with Rooney believing he is deserving of starting every game for the champions of England (regardless of form). I wonder if he’s starting to feel foolish again now, seeing as though the champions of Spain, Germany, France and Italy, as well as those competing for the title in those leagues, have shown that they don’t think he’s good enough for them. Chelsea may want him, after the strikers they really wanted to sign moved elsewhere, but then their first choice striker is Fernando Torres, who has scored just 15 league goals in two and a half seasons with them. 15! That works out roughly as a goal every six games. Rooney’s strike rate for United in the league is better than a goal every two games, and that’s with him not playing as an out and out striker for most of his time at the club. All three of our first choice strikers are better than anything Chelsea have to offer up front, so Rooney would be a considerable upgrade for them.
From that point of view, United can’t really afford to sell him to Chelsea, not unless they can guarantee a world class player in his place, even if that was in midfield. Had we managed to pull off a deal for Cesc Fabregas, losing Rooney would be less costly, with Van Persie, Chicharito, Kagawa and Welbeck all good options up front. Over the past four Premier League seasons, despite being at Barcelona for two of them, Fabregas still has more through balls to his name than any other player (64, followed by David Silva, with three seasons at City, on 46). Can you imagine having someone of his quality feeding ball through to our strikers? It would certainly make Rooney’s absence a lot easier to deal with.
Chelsea will likely start getting more desperate the closer we come to the end of the transfer window, and United might find themselves more desperate to sell if he puts in a transfer request, so the bid to buy him should increase in value. Selling him for £30m-£40m would be good business for United, but totally pointless if we don’t then reinvest that money in a quality signing for ourselves. The sensible thing for the club to do would be to set a deadline for Chelsea, making the required (overinflated) transfer figure known to them, with a plan already in place to sign other players. If we brought in Luka Modric and Marouane Fellaini, whilst losing Rooney to West London, then we would still be in a good shout of the title. But what are the chances of that happening?
What would be disastrous for the club is Chelsea waiting until transfer deadline day to make an offer we (the Glazers) couldn’t refuse, and United having millions sat in the bank, but a quality player down and our title rivals a quality player up. Think of Dimitar Berbatov’s move to United in the last minutes of the transfer window in 2008. Spurs had £30.75m at their disposal but no time to spend it. They went on to finish 8th that season. The following year they spent £32m on players and qualified for the Champions League. Daniel Levy fucked up their entire season by playing silly beggars and it’s hard to argue the extra few million he got for Berba was worth sacrificing that for.
Given how we have conducted our business this summer, it truly would not surprise me if the latter scenario played out though. Ed Woodward returned from Australia three weeks ago to complete some “urgent” transfer business, having previously stated we had a limitless budget to spend on top talent. We haven’t heard from him since and we certainly haven’t signed anyone. United claimed Fabregas was their primary transfer target, yet waited until the day after Barcelona sold Thiago before making a bid, with the Spanish club less likely than ever to entertain offers for the midfielder. We have repeatedly gone public with our bids and wish to buy him, only for Fabregas to give a press conference saying he never had any intention of leaving his dream club. We look hopelessly amateur, conducting business the way you would expect Garrrry Cook to, so anything is possible this summer.
If we can’t get a huge transfer fee for Rooney and a guarantee of a world class signing, then we shouldn’t even open talks with Chelsea. Keeping an unhappy player at the club is far from ideal, but I would rather an unhappy Rooney at United, motivated enough by the promise of a big contract next summer as a reward for playing well this season, then a rejuvenated Rooney at Chelsea. But I have a horrible feeling it won’t work out that way. Let’s just hope the club, after a disappointing summer so far, redeem themselves with the Rooney situation before the window closes.