Wayne Rooney’s footballing future should become clearer within the next 48 hours as Manchester United prepare to fly to Los Angeles for a pre-season tour in the United States.
While they hope to add Romelu Lukaku, the 75 million pound ($96.6 million) striker they are luring from Everton, to their Stateside roster, Rooney looks likely to be left off the flight.
The terms of his move back to Everton, the club he where began his career, are being negotiated. That may not prove the end of his playing-time problems, however, because even if the fine print over contract length and image rights are picked through, Rooney may face a struggle to win over sceptics on Merseyside.
The more blue-blooded among Everton supporters never truly forgave Rooney for his 25.6 million pound move to Old Trafford 13 years ago. Others struggle to see how a 31-year-old consigned to United’s fringes by Jose Mourinho last season would help the fast-flowing football being developed by Everton manager Ronald Koeman.
The statistics are not encouraging. The past two seasons have been the least productive in terms of goals of Rooney’s career — five and eight, respectively — while Mourinho, who began his reign by warmly praising Rooney’s striking prowess, did not trust him to deliver despite few options up front.
Then there is the wear and tear. Ever since the 16-year-old Rooney burst on to the scene with a stunning turn-and-shoot goal against Arsenal, there have been fears about how long his top-flight career would last.
Where former goal-scorers like Teddy Sheringham played in the Premier League until past his 40th birthday, and Jermaine Defoe last week joined Bournemouth at the age of 35, Rooney is a different type of striker.
Heavy-boned and with an abrasive style, he has put his body through more than 500 games at the very highest level and although he has avoided serious injury he admits he has lost pace.
All of which helps explain United’s apparent decision to release him from the final year of his 250,000 pound per week contract, which also has the option of a further 12 months, for free.
For now Everton, and Koeman, have parked any reservations and see the value in at least talking about signing their former striker, and on Wednesday Rooney’s agent Paul Stretford was photographed leaving their London offices.
To sign Rooney, who remains the record goal-scorer for United and England, would certainly represent a coup and add a touch of showbiz to a club who have remained in the footlights outside the top six for the past decade.
“It is a great move for both parties and hopefully it comes off,” said former Everton player Joey Barton on Talksport. “Obviously Wayne is an Evertonian and from Everton’s perspective even if he doesn’t reach the heights as a footballer as he once has, it is a great marketing exercise.”
Farhad Moshiri, Everton’s majority shareholder and the driving force behind their recent 90 million pound ($115.92 million) splurge on new talent, clearly sees the commercial value in Rooney’s arrival and various ways of financing the deal have been discussed.
For now no one is saying anything but by Sunday all may be clear. The irony is that should Rooney be on the plane he is probably going nowhere which, given the build-up, is not an outcome to suit any one.