It never takes much to ignite anything in the way of hysteria when it comes to Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney, but even by the standards of the England’s highest-profile footballer, the headlines that his recent omission from Sir Alex Ferguson’s side have produced seem to have set the bar to new levels.
One very brutal, yet ultimately astute tactical call from Ferguson was all it took to have Fleet Street’s finest start writing the opening passage for Rooney’s United obituary and even after the Scot sought to shoot down talk of a departure for the 27-year-old, rumours suggesting otherwise continue to pepper the back pages.
Yet while the notion of a Rooney departure still seems somewhat distant at this moment in time, for as overzealous as the bloodthirsty press may have been in forecasting his exit from Old Trafford, they may not have been completely incorrect when it came to the prediction of stormier times that are still to come.
With only two years left to run on his current deal, one of the main features to come out with Sir Alex’s recent run in with the assorted media was his insistence that Rooney would indeed be offered a new contract. There’s no reason at this current moment in time to suggest that he was being insincere in those musings.
But what he naturally failed to give away, was quite how financially rewarding the terms of that new contract may be and it’s within the terms of that protracted deal that trouble might still lie ahead.
Speculating over a contract that’s yet to be written may seem incredibly naïve, but if we’re going by basic market value and general footballing logic, then it’s not beyond the realms of realism to suggest that there’s every chance Wayne Rooney might have to take a pay cut to stay at Manchester Untied.
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With his current deal worth within the region of £250,000-a-week all-in when including bonuses, Rooney is already amongst the top ten most handsomely paid footballers in European football and as he approaches his 28th birthday, his next deal is likely to be his most important.
Yet despite heading into what you’d generally perceive to be the peak years of his existence as a footballer, years that usually herald the most lucratively rewarding contract, too, Rooney finds himself in a strange paradox at Old Trafford.
When he essentially had United over a barrel after he threatened to leave the club back in 2010, he agreed terms on his blockbuster five-year deal in the knowledge that he was undeniably the most important asset that Sir Alex Ferguson has at the club. Although undoubtedly damaged by a poor World Cup showing and slow start to the season, Rooney’s stock had perhaps never been higher than when he signed on the dotted line in the October of that year.
Fast-forward to the present day and the picture certainly looks a lot different for the former-Everton man at the club. – Not quite to the doom mongering extent that many have made out, but certainly to the point in which he finds himself in a considerably weakened bargaining position when it comes to drawing up his next deal.
At the time of penning his current deal in 2010, in purely monetary terms, Rooney was widely reported as the highest-earning footballer in the world in sole respect of his basic wage.
This isn’t to say that ability wise he is even in the same ballpark as either Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, who both earned more when sponsorship deals were inclusive. But let’s not forget, although hindsight is a wonderful thing, Rooney went into the World Cup in South Africa touted as a someone whose ability wasn’t on a plateau too dissimilar from the gifted duo.
Yet while Rooney is being paid a salary that suggests he’s one of the most important players in European football, as the Real Madrid game recently suggested, he’s now arguably not even the most prominent player within this United side.
Make no mistake about it; although he’s not fulfilled the sort of unworldly potential that many believe he once could have, Rooney remains a superb footballer and one of the best currently plying their trade on these shores. But where as in 2010 he was an irreplaceable talisman touted as one of the top five footballers in the world, he’s now deemed worthy enough to be sacrificed for the greater tactical good.
Now the question must surely remain – would United really reward Wayne Rooney with better terms than what he currently earns when he’s arguably regressed in importance, rather than grown in prominence?
If the answer to that is no, which remains a very distinct possibility, then the emphasis must then turn to whether Rooney would hypothetically accept that and it’s here that we’re left with no easy answers.
It’d be dangerous to make any pre-conceived assumptions over whether the player would throw his toys out the pram, but regardless of the unique circumstances that surround his current financial terms, there can’t be many players of his age and talent facing a pay cut on their next deal.
Unless Rooney fancies a foreign sojourn to Paris Saint-Germain or even consider the unthinkable with a move across Manchester, he may well have simply reached a glass ceiling in terms of his wage potential and one that he must begrudgingly accept. Quite whether he does that with grace, however, remains to be seen.