Football: Ferguson reveals Rooney wage row and Balotelli interest in new book

Alex Ferguson has defended the quality of the squad that his successor David Moyes inherited in 2013.
Alex Ferguson has defended the quality of the squad that his successor David Moyes inherited in 2013.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (AFP) - Former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson has revealed that he refused to allow Wayne Rooney to be paid more than him during a contract stand-off with the striker in 2010.

The England international vowed to leave United after accusing the club of a lack of ambition, only to perform a sudden U-turn and sign a new five-year deal reportedly worth 180,000 pounds (S$395,000) a week.

But Ferguson reveals in his new book, Leading, which was released on Tuesday, that he engineered a deal of his own ensuring that no player could earn more than him, telling United's owners the Glazer family and then-chief executive David Gill he "did not think it fair that Rooney should earn twice what I made".

"It was simple. We just agreed that no player should be paid more than me," he said.

Rooney fell out with Ferguson prior to the Scot's retirement in 2013, but was appointed United captain by current manager Louis van Gaal last year.

Ferguson says that Everton pulled out all the stops to prevent Rooney joining United in 2004, including an emotional phone-call from the player's mother.

"After we gave them our final offer, (Everton manager Bill) Kenwright got Rooney's mother on the phone and she told me, 'You are not going to steal my boy'," writes Ferguson, who is now a United director.

Other revelations in the book include the disclosure that Ferguson considered a move for wayward Italy striker Mario Balotelli in 2010, only to be dissuaded by his contacts in Italy.

"In 2010, I briefly flirted with the idea of signing Mario Balotelli, the talented but controversial Italian striker," he says.

"I did my homework on him, speaking to a few Italian contacts, but the feedback I got confirmed it was too big a risk."

Balotelli subsequently joined Manchester City from Inter Milan, returning to Italy for a second spell at AC Milan this year following a disappointing season with Liverpool.

Ferguson hits out at Tottenham Hotspur chairman Daniel Levy's handling of Dimitar Berbatov's move to United in 2008, describing the experience as "more painful than my hip replacement".

He also has choice words for Mino Raiola, the agent of French midfielder Paul Pogba, who left United for Juventus in 2012 and has since become one of the world's most coveted players.

"There are one or two football agents I simply do not like and Mino Raiola, Paul Pogba's agent, is one of them," he said. "I distrusted him from the moment I met him."

The 73-year-old defends the quality of the squad that his successor David Moyes inherited in 2013, saying criticism of United's players made it sound like "I had left 11 corpses on the steps of a funeral".

Moyes, meanwhile, was only approached after United had sounded out Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, Juergen Klopp and van Gaal.

On Guardiola, Ferguson said: "I admired him greatly. I asked Pep to phone me before he accepted an offer from another club, but he didn't and wound up joining Bayern Munich in July 2013."

Ferguson also echoes a recent comment from van Gaal by backing Ryan Giggs, United's current assistant manager, to enjoy a successful managerial career.

"Ryan Giggs is eventually going to be a great manager," Ferguson writes. "He has intelligence, presence and knowledge."