LIVERPOOL: The prospect of Wayne Rooney going back to the future and returning to Everton, his original club, is increasing by the day.
Everton manager Ronald Koeman is looking ahead. He has spent more than £90m already this summer on players to take the club – he hopes – up into the Champions League slots consistently over the next three years.
Rooney, deposed captain of England and unwanted at Manchester United by manager Jose Mourinho, is 31 and hardly a long-term prospect. But Koeman believes that his return could help provide a galvanising force to further enthuse the fans and help persuade other new players that Everton is the club of the future.
England’s record goalscorer joined Everton’s youth section at the age of nine and made his professional debut in 2002 at 16. He spent two seasons at the Merseyside club, before moving to United for £25.6m in 2004.
In the next 13 years he helped win the Premier League five times, the FA Community Shield four times, the League Cup three times, the FA Cup once, the Club World Cup once, the Champions League once and the Europa League once.
With 253 goals in all competitions he is also the club’s all-time leading marksman and the second-top scorer in the Premier League era with 198 goals behind only Alan Shearer (260).
Rooney has been affected by a number of injuries over the past two seasons and Mourinho made it clear from the moment of his arrival a year ago that he did not consider Rooney a regular starter. For Mourinho Rooney was a forward and the manager’s priority players were Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford.
In the end Rooney scored five goals from 15 starts and 10 substitute appearances in the league. He scored three goals in 14 appearances in other competitions which included success in the League Cup and, crucially for United, the Europa League.
Mourinho has always said: “There is no way I will force a club legend like Wayne Rooney out of Manchester United.” But the advice was clear: If Rooney wants to play regular football then he needs a new club.
For the past six months speculation has increased that Rooney could reach out to one last big pay-day in China or the United States.
The US would have been more appealing to wife Coleen and their children because the Rooneys are a close family. However there has been no firm inquiry from MLS and the Chinese option has vanished after drastic new spending regulations imposed by the Sports Ministry on Chinese Super League clubs.
This makes the Everton option all the more appealing. Also, Rooney believes he can reclaim a place in the England squad ahead of the World Cup in Russia and playing regularly at Everton would provide the opportunity to stake his claim.
Rooney has been omitted from United’s squad due to head out to the United States on Sunday for their usual pre-season tour and is expected to meet Koeman shortly with a view to even possibly agreeing a transfer ‘home’ by the end of the week.
United are willing to release Rooney – who has a year of his contract remaining – for free which would help Everton maintain his £250,000-a-week wage level.
In the meantime Everton are happy to have landed England under-21 stars in goalkeeper Jordan Pickford from Sunderland plus centre-back Michael Keane from Burnley as well as Ajax captain Danny Klaassen and ex-Barcelona forward Sandro Ramirez.
Farhad Moshiri, the billionaire businessman who became Everton’s major shareholder last year, is also ready to spend on Gylfi Sigurdsson and Olivier Giroud. But bringing Rooney home would be the biggest statement of all.