At last we have seen some movement with the Wayne Rooney transfer saga, following months and months of pub-talk and playground speculation surrounding the England man’s future at Old Trafford. Whether by accident or by design, David Moyes’ words in Sydney, implying that Rooney’s importance to Manchester United ended with his role as cover for Robin van Persie, appears to have triggered a flurry of transfer action, with revelations in the last 24 hours equating in mass to the lack of clarified information we’ve received since Sir Alex Ferguson revealed in May that the 27 year old had made a transfer request.
Yesterday afternoon it was revealed Wayne Rooney felt ‘angry and confused’ by Moyes’ intriguing choice of diction amid his Australian press conference, and since, the rapid pace has been constant. A number of mainstream newspapers declared Chelsea offered a swap deal of either David Luiz or Juan Mata, plus £10million, for the England forward yesterday evening, whilst those in the Rooney camp denied they were aware of such an offer until the story broke on Sky Sports News.
Now, the situation has been clarified, with the Blues confirming they made a written offer, to the value of £20million, whilst at no point was the idea of sending Mata or Luiz in the opposite direction even considered. To add a twist in the tale, United turned down the offer, insisting their number 10 is not for sale. The latest update received upon writing this article, is that United’s Chief Executive Ed Woodward has left the pre-season tour early to take care of an urgent transfer matter.
So now the war of words at least is over, as it no longer takes reading between the lines of Jose Mourinho’s and David Moyes’ interaction with the Asian and Australian media to see that Chelsea are in the market to buy, and the Red Devils are content to sell, should the price meet their valuation, and compensate extra for a tried and tested Premier League goal-scorer will be jumping ship to a divisional rival.
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But let’s face facts here Chelsea fans, the Rooney deal is one of necessity rather than design. A few months ago, the England star was way down the list of potential candidates to head the Blues’ attack for Jose Mourinho’s returning campaign to England.
Radamel Falcao had been linked with a move to Stamford Bridge ever since his hat trick against the West Londoners in the Champions Cup final last summer, Edinson Cavani was touted as a future Chelsea star from January onwards, whilst it was widely believed that Robert Lewandowski would be the Chelsea gaffer’s star choice, not only due to his sensational form in Europe, but also the fact that he epitomises the type of striker Mourinho’s tactics had become synonymous with during his time in England, and subsequently the Blues’ tactics following the Portuguese’s abrupt departure back in 2007.
Now that the transfer market is in full swing however, there aren’t too many options on the horizon. Chelsea’s power of the purse couldn’t trump Monaco’s, who paid £51million for Falcao’s clinical finishing, Edinson Cavani failed to tick all the boxes and was surrendered to PSG, with his move from Napoli completed yesterday, whilst Robert Lewandowski and Borussia Dortmund have made it clear that he will be allowed to switch to rivals Bayern Munich, but both player and club will have to wait until next summer.
Even Europe’s next batch of strikers, the likes of Carlos Tevez, Mario Gomez and David Villa, who have surpassed their footballing peak but still have a lot to offer in terms of goals, have slipped by without the Blues successfully sinking their teeth into any potential deal to bring them to Stamford Bridge. Similarly, the precence of Romelu Lukaku have made the rumoured signings of Christian Benteke and Wilfried Bony (now with Swansea) essentially pointless escapades.
There’s no doubt the Blues need a star forward ahead of next season if they are to take the Premier League title race seriously. Last term, the front line was their biggest weakness domestically, with Fernando Torres and Demba Ba finding just ten Premier League goals between them. The aftermath is that both remain unknown quantities ahead of the 2013/2014 campaign, and even Romelu Lukaku, who recorded 17 goals on loan to West Brom last season, is yet to pass the test in a Chelsea jersey, having not found the net in his only twelve senior appearances for his parent club.
Excluding a controversial bid for Luis Suarez, it seems Rooney is the only viable option at this moment in time. The football world is filled with horror stories of transfers involving players that were sourced as a fourth or fifth choice alternative, and Chelsea also have their fair share of woeful tales – Andry Shevchenko’s £30million move was a result of the Blues’ failed attempt to sign Samuel Eto’o, whilst one can only assume that Khalid Boulahrouz was never Mourinho’s first choice when conjuring up a list of versatile defenders.
Settling for second best is not something which Roman Abramovich or the Chelsea fans are accustomed to, but will Rooney’s move necessarily equate to disaster?
Well on paper at least, it’s hard to find a fault in Rooney’s armour. For all the criticisms of the England forward, which have grown considerably over the past few years, he claims a scoring record of 197 goals in 400 games for the Red Devils, whilst it’s hard to deny the quality of a footballer who has five Premier League titles, two League Cups and one Champions League title to his name, all won in the space of nine years.
Furthermore, you can see him fit the bill perfectly at Stamford Bridge. The forward’s versatility is well known, deployed as a supporting striker, a winger, a lone front man and even in defensive midfield last season, which grants Mourinho a wealth of flexibility as he mingles between 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3 variations next season.
On the most part, Rooney will be utilised as a lone forward, and despite him not being of the Mourinho mould, as mentioned briefly earlier regarding Robert Lewandowski, the United man’s strongest campaigns at Old Trafford have come when the squad relied on his efforts to find the net by himself the most, with 27 domestic goals the year before Robin Van Persie’s arrival.
Similarly, the potential on-pitch bond with Juan Mata and Eden Hazard is already an exciting prospect, and at Chelsea, Rooney would claim a higher status amongst the starting XI than he currently does at Old Trafford, or at least receive higher praise for a level of performance the United faithful have begun to take for granted.
But there are obvious reasons the Red Devils are willing to sell, and despite Rooney’s proven track record, there is more risk than meets the eye. To suggest the 27 year old has declined would be a step too far, but his progression has quite clearly stagnated over the past few seasons; the octane aggression has slipped away from the forward’s game, as has his level of audaciousness and confidence, which once had him regarded as one of the best strikers in Europe.
That being said, I’m of the opinion that Rooney simply needs a new challenge. He’s become too well acquainted with his surroundings in Manchester, and if anyone can psychologically master a footballer whom Sir Alex Ferguson has failed to motivate to full effect during the final years of his reign, it’s Jose Mourinho. The 2014 World Cup being just around the corner should also be a personal motivation for the United man.
The problem now will come down to fees. The Red Devils’ rejection of a £20million offer, whilst David Moyes has also claimed the striker is not for sale and Chief Executive Ed Woodwood insists he doesn’t fear the prospect of letting Rooney’s contract run down, suggests United will be after considerably more. It puts Mourinho in a rather difficult position, as he could end up paying a price that doesn’t justify the England international’s recent blip in form, his contract situation, or the fact that he was never the West Londoners’ first choice of star forward to splash the cash on.
But sometimes in football you have to pay for what you need more than what you want, and there’s no doubt Chelsea desperately need a striker of Rooney’s calibre ahead of next season. We all know what we can expect of him at Stamford Bridge – a tally of goals between 12 and 20, and around eight or ten assists to boot.
How much such a level of output is worth in fiscal terms is debatable, the litmus test however, of whether his fee will be judged acceptable or not, will be the Premier League title.
Should Chelsea fans be worried that Rooney’s purchase is one of necessity?
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