Now that Wayne Rooney has officially signed his new blockbuster contract at Manchester United it seems appropriate that we dissect this slightly unexpected chain of events.
Regular readers of this column will no doubt remember me writing on repeated occasions that I fully expected Rooney to leave Old Trafford in Summer 2014, and I must admit to being taken aback when rumours about this bumper contract first came to light.
So why has Wayne Rooney signed a new deal at United when he was clearly so unhappy last season? The answer to this question seems to be – as it so often is in football – money. Rooney’s contract is reported to be a worth a whopping £300,000 a week, and is for the next five and a half years. This means that by the time this contract expires when Rooney is 33, the ex-Everton striker will have earnt around £85 million.
Whilst most United fans will no doubt be pleased with the news that one of their prized assets has committed his future to the club, I believe there are a number of concerning things about this deal.
For a start, we must question whether Rooney is worth this amount of money. Of course, discussions about how much players are worth are problematic in their nature, as most of us would agree that no player is worth the amount that they’re paid to kick a ball around a field. But in football terms, is this new wage a reflection of Rooney’s market value? I would argue with absolute conviction, no.
Rooney is a great player, of that there is no doubt, but he very rarely puts in performances that would put him in the same bracket as superstars like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Rooney’s form has dipped throughout his entire career, with a purple patch invariably followed by a dismal period. It’s probably fair to say that 50% of the time Rooney isn’t performing anywhere near a world-class level, and for £300k a week (more than Messi and Ronaldo) you’d expect a level of consistency that United just won’t get with Rooney.
The second thing to consider is why Rooney has chosen to sign this contract. It was an open secret last summer that he was keen on a move to Chelsea, and popular opinion suggested that he’d move to Stamford Bridge this coming summer. In terms of the player himself, this was a perfectly understandable move. As has been well documented, United have had a torrid season so far, and are almost certain to miss out on the Champions League places. This new contract all but confirms that Rooney will not figure in the Champions League beyond this season until he is very nearly 30 at the absolute earliest. Had he moved to Chelsea, he would be in a team challenging strongly on all fronts as well as playing for a side managed by one of the world’s best managers.
So whilst he has been offered a ridiculous sum of money to stay at United, I feel that one must question Rooney’s ambition. It is quite clear that Moyes’ side are going through a rebuilding phase, and there are very few indications that Moyes has what it takes to turn things around. He may do, but if not it looks like Rooney has just committed to mediocrity.
We must also question the club. Obviously they were desperate to keep him, but this eye-boggling sum suggests that in their desperate attempt to retain him, they have been forced into agreeing to a set of demands that seem to grow in silliness the more they are considered.
Rooney has never been the most physically fit player, and given the usual playing span of elite footballers it would not be a stretch to suggest that Rooney has maybe only two to three years left at his peak. This five-year contract guarantees that he will continue to receive a massive amount of money regardless of his form or fitness for over half a decade. This seems a preposterously poorly negotiated deal for United, and highlights their desperation to give off the impression that they are still one of the big dogs in the Premier League.
I believe that we can also proffer another suggested knock-on effect of this news: Robin van Persie will not be at the club next season. It is not a stretch to say that United’s purchase of van Persie won them the league last season, but the Dutchman has cut a frustrated figure many times this season, seemingly not receptive to Moyes’ methods in the same way that Rooney has been. The reason I say that the Rooney contract suggests that the ex-Arsenal player will leave is that with United having committed to Rooney and Mata for the next four years, it stands to reason that they are planning to play them both. Mata operates most effectively behind a single striker, and considering his talent it would be foolish not to play him there. The trouble is that this has also been Rooney’s position, and I strongly suspect that Rooney will move into the centre forward position next season, with Mata behind him.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t all bad news for United. Rooney is a very good player, one of the best at the club. It’s just that to me this deal smacks of desperation, of clinging onto one of your few faint hopes whilst quite literally paying a very heavy price for doing so.