With Wayne Rooney making a verbal transfer request to leave for a new challenge in the summer, it seems his Manchester United tenure will be cut short, adverse predictions he would see out his career at Old Trafford upon singing for the Premier League champions back in 2004.
Although reports, such as in The Independent , who’ve sourced the England man removing his description as a Manchester United player from his twitter account as unquestionable evidence of a summer departure, are little more than superficial attempts at second guessing, it is concerning that this is now Rooney’s second request to leave the club in the space of three years, citing alternative reasons on both occasions, suggesting the striker is keen to find an excuse that will allow him to escape the Red Devils’ grasp without being hoodwinked into signing a new contract.
There is every chance that the appointment of David Moyes on a six year deal as Sir Alex Ferguson’s successor will trigger a rethink on Rooney’s part, as the relationship between the player and his former employer has reportedly improved dramatically since their legal spat in 2006 when the United man made allegations against Moyes in his autobiography, but the paper-talk and murmurings are that Chelsea will try to lure Rooney to Stamford Bridge in the summer amid his admission of discontent at Old Trafford.
But does the potential move to West London represent the best opportunity for the striker-come-midfielder? Would it be the perfect fit for a player searching for pastures new, and could he come to regret the decision a few years down the line?
The truth is, the avenues open to the 27 year old in the summer will be incredibly limited, and signing for the Blues may well be his only viable option without taking a downward step in terms of quality of his next club. Upon the speculation over his future earlier in the season, triggered by Ferguson’s decision to bench Rooney for the second leg of their Champions League clash with Real Madrid, the response from the elite of European football regarding a potential future transfer was a resounding ‘No’.
The only link the red-tops could muster up for the former Toffees youngster was a transfe to money-rich PSG, simply due to their unprecedented finance making them potential suitors for any top-class player expected to be on the move. But Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich all kept schtum, not even flirting with the prospect of signing Rooney, despite his relatively low price tag of just £25million, according to the tabloids.
The lack of interest is due to the fact that Wayne Rooney only makes sense in the Premier League. In England, his dogged determination, robust brutishness and tendency to come deep into his own half to get the ball or cover for a left-for-dead team mate is greatly appreciated. But in La Liga, Serie A or the Bundesliga, they are used to their players being far more specialised, and would not put up with the flip-side of the United man’s hard-working game; the inconsistency in his passing, the desertion of his duties as an attacking player and the ever-poor finishing of seemingly bread and butter chances. By English standards, Rooney’s technique may well be exceptional, but in comparison to Spanish, German, Italian or South American counter-parts, he would overall be judged as wasteful.
Thus, with a move to Manchester City seemingly unlikely considering the unprecidented controversy it would cause at this moment in time, a move to West London appears to be the only viable option for the Three Lions forward. But where does he fit into the roster at Stamford Bridge?
Where Rooney’s on-pitch future lies in terms of positioning is clearly an underlying issue regarding his decision to depart from Old Trafford. Although I would argue he has the potential within him to be as good a central midfielder, if not better, as he is a striker, it would seem pushing the Mersey-born man deeper into the middle of the park is in contrast to how he envisages the remainder of his career to pan out.
The acquisition of Robin Van Persie, despite the two forming a successful partnership – with the former Arsenal forward manning the line and Rooney tucked in behind him – has removed the Three Lions man from the limelight and undermined his importance at Old Trafford, and perhaps the club’s pursuit of Robert Lewandowski has become the final straw, as it signifies that Rooney’s future will not one where he is viewed be as a goal-scorer first.
But at Stamford Bridge, Rooney could easily find himself fall victim to the same problem. Roman Abramovich appears intent to get his money’s worth out of Fernando Torres, even if he has the lacklustre Spaniard on the Blues’ books until his mid-thirties, and with Demba Ba only recently purchased and Romelu Lukaku set to be given an opportunity at first team football for his parent club next season, following an exceptional year on loan to West Brom, the next Chelsea manager will most likely not be able to offer United’s unhappy star the unconditional role up front which he desires. Then again, it’s been by far the Blues’ weakest department this season, and perhaps Rafa Benitez’s successor will be willing to undertake some brutal tailoring of the squad and put a few careers on the back-burner to make room for the 27 year old.
Even in attacking midfield, you would argue that there is not a clear vacancy for Rooney. Chelsea’s footballing future appears to be underpinned by the three amigos – Juan Mata, Oscar and Eden Hazard – and ripping apart the an attacking triplet that have formed a strong understanding and performed well this season presents a level of risk and furthermore conflicts with the club’s long term vision. There is scope to move Oscar into central midfield, but the summer arrival of Andre Schurrle further complicates matters, as does Victor Moses’ role in the team.
On the other hand, Wayne Rooney’s quality would bring improvement to the Chelsea midfield, with Oscar being the most likely candidate considering his age to take a back seat next season. Furthermore, the England striker has played at his best throughout his career when surrounded by top class talent. His partnership with Cristiano Ronaldo undoubtedly brought out the best in him, and he could easily replicate the intricate passing and sensational counter-attacking goals when working alongside Hazard and Mata, whom are both exceptional players.
Of course, it all depends upon who becomes the next Chelsea manager, which still remains to be seen. Jose Mourinho is a big fan of Rooney’s, but would he be the Real Madrid gaffer’s first port of call in the transfer market should he make his anticipated return to Stamford Bridge? Radamel Falcao and Robert Lewandowski are surely this summer’s most desired purchases, and if it is goals Mourinho is after, he will almost certainly make a move for one of the two first. Similarly, with the Blues’ ageist approach to players over thirty, the board would surely prefer a younger candidate should they feel the midfield needs improving.
Despite my hesitancy, the United forward would clearly lift the quality of the Chelsea squad, which could be a strong enough factor alone to convince the West Londoners to splash the cash on him in the summer. But at this stage, there are still too many questions that require an answer.
Who will be the next Chelsea boss – there’s little point in purchasing Rooney if he does not fit with the new manager’s ideology; it was certainly an underlying factor in Fernando Torres’ torrid first few years at the club. Where does Rooney wish to play – he’d clearly prefer to play up front, but will that be possible at Stamford Bridge, and there are better, more natural goal-scorers on the market. And most importantly, who will be leaving Chelsea in the summer – the club have to make decisions on a number of their cast of youngsters out on loan, and room needs to be made before new arrivals can come in. Furthermore, Frank Lampard’s fate is still yet to be decided.
At the moment, it remains unclear whether or not Chelsea are the perfect fit for the want-away United man, but I believe as soon as a few of these issues are addressed in the coming weeks, it will be obvious if the potential transfer to West London is the smartest move for both parties. Furthermore, we will be able to tell if Moyes’ appointment has any bearing on where Wayne Rooney wants to be playing football next season.