Wayne Rooney is no longer one of the first names on Manchester United’s team-sheet, having started just eight Premier League games this season.
At 31 years old, the striker may be forced to consider if his future lies away from Old Trafford, particularly if he wants to remain England captain.
And this week, United boss Jose Mourinho said he could not guarantee that Rooney will end the season with the Red Devils, amid reports the club’s record goalscorer is ready to head to the Chinese Super League.
But what are the possible options for the United captain?
With a reported £52million deal on the table, Rooney would be the most high-profile recruit yet to join the Chinese Super League, which has already snared the likes of Carlos Tevez and Oscar in the past year. While the move would surely end his England career, there would be significant compensation in the form of a bumper wage packet. Clubs in China – where the transfer window closes on Tuesday – may be the only ones the world willing to match or even increase his Old Trafford salary. And he would be a significant coup for the league, in the same way David Beckham was for Major League Soccer.
Rooney’s former England team-mates Beckham, Ashley Cole, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard have all lived the American dream in recent years, though only Beckham had any significant impact and managed to continue his international career while Stateside. The lifestyle may appeal to Rooney and his young family, but at his age a move across the Atlantic would, like China, probably spell the end of his England days.
A romantic return to his boyhood club has always been mooted, and, when Rooney wore blue again last summer for Duncan Ferguson’s testimonial, he was greeted warmly by those who he first enraptured as a 16-year-old in 2002. However, with a new manager and new owners now in place at Goodison Park, would Everton be interested in a Rooney reunion?
While unable to guarantee Rooney would remain at United, Mourinho also said this week that he was happy for the player to stay and that he would never try to push “a legend of this club” out of the door. Rooney is United’s all-time record goalscorer, surpassing Sir Bobby Charlton’s tally last month with his 250th strike against Stoke, and is contracted to the club until 2019. Staying put would be the easiest option, but he would have to be content with being a bit-part player.
A move to one of Europe’s big clubs could be another possibility, with Paris St Germain, Real Madrid and AC Milan all boasting glamorous locations which may appeal to Rooney and wife Coleen. Beckham had spells with all three after leaving Old Trafford in 2003, so again Rooney could end up following in his former international captain’s footsteps.