Where next for Wayne Rooney?

The biggest news since David Beckham’s Old Trafford exit has been confirmed – Wayne Rooney wants to leave Manchester United. The story which broke in the British media yesterday morning was corroborated by Ferguson during the pre-game press conference this afternoon. With the England striker suffering from a terrible run of form and well documented problems in his private life, one wonders where next for Rooney?

His exit from United will certainly be unique as it will be one of the first during the Ferguson reign where a player would leave as he desires it. Cristiano Ronaldo may have departed Manchester last year for £80 million but it was only after the Portuguese was coerced into playing another season with the Red Devils. It is hard to see Rooney being convinced to continue his stay especially seeing as his contract runs out at the end of the 2011-12 season. This leaves United in the rather precarious position of selling him next summer as a January transfer is unlikely, or risk letting him leave for free.

The question remains though – Who could afford Wayne Rooney? With UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules kicking in soon, there are very few clubs who would want a player with Rooney’s salary on their payroll. Realistically speaking there are only four clubs that could acquire him at present – Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester City and Chelsea. Barcelona are an unlikely destination seeing as they purchased David Villa in the summer and are contending with losses to the tune of half a billion pounds. So that rules out the Catalans.

As for Manchester City, Rooney will likely become the most hated figure in English football since Ashley Cole and Sol Campbell if he does choose to join Mancini’s men at the Eastlands. The problem for City will be accommodating Rooney in their already bulging list of forwards. Mario Balotelli has only arrived a few months ago and Rooney’s reported demands for a £200,000-a-week deal may see the Sky Blues wage bill hit the rooftop, something they can ill-afford as they risk being banned from European competition.

There have been players who have lived to tell the tale of switching directly between direct rivals, cue Luis Figo, but it seems doubtful whether Rooney would actually do it. It would take enormous courage on the behalf of the striker to commit to what will be seen as eternal betrayal of the United faithful.

Chelsea are another team that would most definitely be interested in Rooney’s services. The Blues have Roman Abramovich’s backing to pursue such a move and more importantly they have been financially careful over the past few transfer windows. With Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka not getting any younger, a forward like Rooney (who will turn 25 this Sunday) may ensure the goals at Stamford Bridge for a few more years to come.

The Blues coach Carlo Ancelotti has already opened the doors for such a move according to a report in The Sun. There could be other motivations for a transfer to Chelsea as well – Rooney won’t be seen as a complete betrayer should be choose to switch homes from Manchester to London and would also have his wish of staying in England for his playing career realised.

This finally leaves Real Madrid. It is well known that Madrid manager Jose Mourinho is an admirer of Wayne Rooney and he has always spoken positively of the England star. Rooney is the type of player that the Special One admires as he is always willing to track back and contribute to the team defensively too. The partnership between Ronaldo and Rooney was very successful at United and there is no reason why it won’t be so at Real.

The Portuguese Ballon D’Or winner has already stated his desire to reunite with Rooney a few times and that may also be a factor in pursuading Wayne to join the brigade in Madrid. The other bargaining tool for Real may be Karim Benzema – a player that Ferguson had courted a few years ago. If Rooney moves to Real, one can be sure that Benzema moves the other way and that would be mutually beneficial for both teams in terms of financial viability for the deal. It will surely take the media pressure off Rooney’s shoulders and that may help him get back to his best.

It remains to be seen what the forward has to say about these developments, regardless one is sure that next season or possibly even January there is one big name on the market.

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