It’s not just at the front of the newspaper that the column inches have to be filled: as the number of Andy Murray and Ashes Test stories winds down, the back pages inevitably turn to football for their subject material. In the close season, that means transfer talk. And the thought that Manchester United and Wayne Rooney may be about to part company has set the hacks off big time.
Happier times at Old Trafford
Rooney has been at Old Trafford since moving from Everton in 2004. But in the past season, Alex Ferguson had on several occasions not played him for the full 90 minutes, used him only as a substitute, or not included him in the team at all. This fuelled talk of the player being unsettled and wanting to leave. And there are plenty of clubs who would be interested in signing him.
First of these to come to the press’ attention – not least because he is the most quotable manager since Cloughie – has been José Mourinho at Chelsea, who has confirmed that not only has a bid been made, but also that Rooney is the club’s sole transfer target. Also thought to be in the market is Arsène Wenger of Arsenal, who claims the club would be able to afford to buy him.
So a move is on, then, is it? Well, maybe. According to his club, Rooney has yet to put in a formal transfer request, and without that, it’s all mind games and agents manoeuvring. And there is something else that everyone knows about, but few are mentioning, and that is the concern over Rooney’s lifestyle, and his ability to extend his career into his thirties.
Wayne Rooney has a smoking habit. And the days when almost all players did likewise are fast becoming mere fading memory. That propensity to light up could explain why the player has not been at his best when on England duty recently. It is thought to be a significant factor in Ferguson not playing him for 90 minutes, if only as a way of showing his disapproval.
Does he think that it would be different at Chelsea? He’s having a laugh if he does. Mourinho would be on his case from Day 1, trying to get him to kick the smokes, knowing that his club have invested one large chunk of money and want to get as much in return as they can. It would be no different at Arsenal: one of Wenger’s first moves on arriving there was to close the Players’ Bar.
Moreover, the offer that Chelsea have made – if it’s the rumoured £20 million or so – is rather less than what Man U paid Everton back in 2004. That suggests they are not expecting to get many years out of Rooney if Mourinho can’t get him off the baccy. If the player is unhappy about where he is now, well, the person who can help his cause the most is Himself Personally Now.
What’s your game, Wayne? It’s down to you to figure that one out.