In-demand Rooney still holding aces

Skipper to play in Man United's pre-season US tour amid interest from clubs and a year left on deal

LONDON • Contrary to popular opinion, forward Wayne Rooney was probably not anxiously hoping for a call from Chinese Super League clubs, when the league's transfer window opened yesterday.

There remains specific interest from five cashed-up sides in the Far East, including Jiangsu Suning who appointed Fabio Capello as their new manager last week, but the perception that China offers the Manchester United captain the only escape route is flawed.

A ruling implemented by the Chinese Football Association also kicks in, which sees clubs paying a new 100 per cent tax on transfer fees if they post losses each year.

In an attempt to crack down on the influx of foreign signings, clubs will have to pay the exact transfer fee into a fund that helps the development of young Chinese players and so must, in effect, pay double.

There have also been overtures for Rooney from other clubs in the Premier League, from around Europe - two of the big three in Turkey have registered interest along with clubs in Italy and Spain - and also the United States.

More crucially, the prospect of him remaining at United also needs to be considered.

Staying at Old Trafford is not some sort of last resort for Rooney. The fact that United have failed to sign Atletico Madrid's Antoine Griezmann, the man expected to operate in Rooney's favoured position, strengthens his case.

As it stands, Rooney is expected to be on the plane that will fly to Los Angeles for the beginning of the club's three-week tour of the US on July 8. He features in six of the seven promotional posters for United's pre-season campaign, which also includes trips to Dublin and Norway.

Rooney is hardly in a weak position. If he makes the same number of appearances as last season, there is an automatic option on United's side to extend his weekly £250,000 (S$442,000) contract - which runs until 2018 - by another 12 months.

If he does not, it will be up to United to decide whether to renew. Rooney could easily be an attractive free transfer next summer.

United will not countenance allowing Rooney to leave for nothing this summer, which is perhaps why Everton, despite manager Ronald Koeman's repeated public comments, have not been in touch.

Stoke, for one, know that asking him to take a wage cut of 50 per cent or more is unrealistic.

Said their chairman Tony Scholes: "We have some wild speculation, but there has been no conversation whatsoever (about) Wayne Rooney coming to Stoke."

An argument can be made that staying in England is best for Rooney, if he is serious about resuming an international career that has stalled under Gareth Southgate.

The England manager has spoken about the lack of experience at his disposal, and as he watched his young side unravel against France last week, the reality of that would have been in his thoughts again.

Rooney intends to return to Carrington two weeks before his team-mates in an attempt to hit the ground running, and take the first steps towards proving that he is not past his sell-by date.

Moving to US' Major League Soccer mid-season will not necessarily keep him in Southgate's thoughts, while a switch to China puts him out of sight and out of mind.

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 20, 2017, with the headline 'In-demand Rooney still holding aces'. Print Edition | Subscribe