The acquisition of Juan Mata by Manchester United seems to point to one thing: Wayne Rooney will eventually depart the club.
In fact, it didn’t need the arrival of the Spanish midfielder to point to the sensible outcome of yet another protracted Rooney saga. If there was genuine interest in the player to remain at Old Trafford, we’d likely have some sense of that. As of now, nothing points to another dramatic change of heart over the coming months.
Chelsea, of course, have held a long-standing interest in the player. Considering Jose Mourinho has just relinquished his hold on Mata, you wonder if United will play ball in a similar fashion by offering them Rooney in the summer. But even with a bridge being built between the two clubs, albeit it far from a sturdy one, it appears Chelsea have other strikers in mind. Atletico Madrid have to sell in the summer, and with Mourinho and Diego Costa sharing the same agent, that move seems the most likely.
That possibly leaves Wayne Rooney with the option of heading to Real Madrid.
The La Liga side have shown in interest in bringing in another striker, despite their decision not to strengthen via the market last summer after Gonzalo Higuain departed to Napoli. The obvious targets were Luis Suarez and Radamel Falcao; the less obvious is Sergio Aguero.
But could Rooney’s impending availability prompt Florentino Perez to make a move?
Real Madrid are about brand, image and marketing, as well as footballing talent; sometimes the latter being heavily outweighed by off-pitch factors. Rooney, at this time, doesn’t cut it. At 28, is there much time left for him to reclaim that golden image he once held? Due to his inconsistent form for club, and having failed to have a meaningful impact at an international tournament for country in a decade, it seems a long shot.
But what of Falcao, who turns 28 next month? While there is little in the two players’ age, Falcao has been one of Europe’s lead marksmen for several years now. While in Spain, he was only bettered by Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in scoring. He’s played colossal parts in Porto and Atletico Madrid winning domestic and European trophies, and with Perez still holding a vice grip on the Galactico label – Gareth Bale being the alternative after losing out on Neymar – Falcao still makes sense for a number of reasons.
Rooney continues to hold a prominent standing in England, even with his erratic form. If England had a host of readymade superstars for the national team, would that continue to be the case?
From a football perspective, some may argue that Rooney is the better player over Karim Benzema. The United forward’s relationship with Ronaldo on the pitch is also something that can be reignited. But where’s the marketability? Where’s the wow factor? Even though Rooney is a big name globally, he wouldn’t command the same response as Suarez or Aguero if they were to move to the Bernabeu.
And then there’s the Ballon d’Or. It’s as much a home run for the club as it is the player. Is Rooney ever likely to be in that discussion again? Suarez, according to some, is on the way. If he were to move to Madrid, it’s more than likely that the top three, in whichever order, will be made up of two Real Madrid players and Messi. The same can be said for Falcao. Prestige goes hand-in-hand with Perez’s Real Madrid.
The other point is that Real themselves don’t appear to have much of an idea as to where they’ll look for their next blockbuster signing, told by their late, late contact with Robert Lewandowski in December. Suarez’s capture has been made more difficult following his contract renewal, and while Real have always fancied Aguero, we’ve seen little indication that they’re preparing a serious move in the coming months. Of course, that could change.
The point is Rooney just doesn’t hold the same weight as those names outside of England. If Real Madrid are thinking about who the next target will be, the United striker is likely to be well down the list. Amid all the speculation of a move away from Old Trafford last summer, it’s telling that Madrid didn’t even kick the tires on Rooney’s availability.