As Wayne Rooney nears a return to Everton, a number of fans and commentators alike are hailing it as a ‘fairytale return.’
The story, as it has unfolded so far, is of a tenacious teenage sensation moving from his boyhood club to England’s most successful side and winning a number of titles and trophies.
The past three years, however, have seen dips in form and struggles with fitness, which have seen him drop out of both the United and England setup and struggle to justify his £250k-a-week wages.
While the last few seasons have been anything but a Cinderella story, the Toffees are still keen to bring the protagonist back home for a final hurrah.
But will it be a happy ending, or is the move a step backwards for a club that has been making real strides so far this summer.
Ronald Koeman has worked fast this window, bringing in young Englishmen Jordan Pickford and Michael Keane as well as foreign talent like Davy Klaassen from Ajax and Sandro from Malaga.
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The Toffees appear to be building a young, talented side with professional attitudes – but would the signing of a big – yet declining – name help or hinder the Dutchman’s project?
On the face of it, there are a number of issues – namely Rooney’s form over the past few seasons.
Since the 31-year-old managed 17 goals in David Moyes’ only season at Old Trafford, his output has deteriorated as he has secured 12, eight and five league goals respectively in the past three seasons.
His performances have also seen a sharp decline as well, with his touch and positioning coming under criticism in recent times.
With Romelu Lukaku – one of the Premier League’s hottest strikers and a man improving year upon year – nearing the exit and likely needing replacing, a fading light like Rooney seems an ill fit.
Another problem would be where the attacker would be accommodated.
Both Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho struggled to find a position for Rooney after trying him out up top, in the number 10 role, deep in midfield and out wide.
His showings for United and England have shown he can no longer lead the line, and with roles in the middle of midfield likely to be taken by Klaassen, Ross Barkley and Tom Davies, it’s difficult to see where Rooney would fit in.
Finally, there is the issue of wages.
While sources like the Daily Mail are reporting United and England’s record goalscorer will be moving on a free, there is still the small matter of what will likely be a costly pay packet.
The mooted figure is £150k-a-week – more than any other Everton player.
Not only is this a hefty figure for someone who will most likely play a bit-part role, it could also cause discontent among those not earning as much.
While these are all potential drawbacks, however, there are reasons the move could be a success.
The main of these are that – while doubts have been cast about his attitude in the past – he will undoubtedly prove to be a role model to younger players.
You don’t get to be captain of your nation and arguably the biggest club in England without having some leadership qualities.
As well as that, while he hasn’t been at the top of the football pyramid for a while, Rooney is still a big name that would not only bring more commercial interest in Everton, but also be a statement of intent.
And let’s not forget this is a man with over 250 goals for Manchester United and had the third best goals-per-minute ratio for the Red Devils last season, despite being in and out the side.
He has shown flashes of impeccable technique at times – games against Fenerbahce and Stoke City come to mind – and if Koeman can coax some form you’d expect him to reach double figures.
Perhaps that’s what we should be looking for instead of the fairytale.