More than most of us would earn in a year… Some, in a lifetime… Obscene… Unfathomable… Other worldly… Ridiculous… The figures bandied about last week justified the resulting headlines, aggravated coffee-table discussions and lengthened trips to the water cooler. Depending on which newspaper pops through your letterbox, Rooney’s estimated earning potential if he moved to arch rivals Manchester City ranged anywhere from £200,000 to £500,000. Per week.
Such news is not as immediately shocking as it would have been ten years ago. Not in an age where we see players like Yaya Toure joining Manchester City for a reported £220,000 per week, or John Terry leisurely picking up £150K pay for a week nursing a bad back and fiddling with his co-worker’s girlfriends. No, we’re used to these figures. They’re dangerously close to becoming the norm. Indeed, I was surprised to hear Andy Carroll’s Newcastle wage rose to ‘only’ £30,000 per week after signing his new contract. I even felt a little bit sorry for the Tyneside front man.
Back to Rooney. Last week’s debacle left me under no doubt that my suspicions surrounding Wayne and his management team were entirely reasonable.
They’re as thick as two short planks. The lot of them.
Rooney’s agent, Paul Stretford, was hailed by a few to be a ‘genius’ after week-long discussions with Man Utd ended with their prized asset signing a new five-year deal worth, if you do some very rudimentary sums, around £40m.
I’m not sure how people came to that conclusion. Genius? If we apply that to his method of making money, yes. Fair enough. I’m sure he chewed on a very fat cigar last Friday.
PR genius? Er, no.
His first mistake was allowing any of this to go public. Footballers survive on one thing – fan loyalty. Once you lose the fans, you’re as good as gone. Therefore, relations between fan and player must be protected. Fans are the only constant in football and they’re the hardest to please; threatening the thin thread by which that relationship hangs is lunacy.
By arguing out such a vile contract dispute in full earshot of the entire world – one that is facing global economic problems – was distasteful, needless and downright stupid. Doing it during the week of the most important UK spending review in the last twenty years amounts to quite simply the most ignorant, insensitive, childish piece of PR I’ve ever witnessed. It wouldn’t compound the ill feeling, would it, Paul? Nah, ‘course not.
His second mistake was to encourage Rooney to insist his reasons for wanting to leave were down to a lack of club ambition. Doing so when you’ve hit rock bottom form-wise does nothing other than demonstrate how few brain cells you have limping around your vacuous cavern of a skull. Rooney hasn’t played well for months and, regardless of the reason behind it, is in no position to start demanding anything – least of all commitment – from a club he seems to have no problem distancing himself from the instant they refuse to succumb to his wage demands.
And what about his fellow professionals? In one sweeping statement, he essentially labelled them all not-fit-for-purpose. That explains the flailing hand gestures whenever a pass or cross intended for him went awry (an irritating habit of Rooney’s which spilled into his England game and contributed in no small part to the subsequent dropping of Walcott from the World Cup squad).
There’s no doubting Rooney is potentially one of the best players this country has produced. But he is also one of the most petulant and displays a staggering inability to cope with being in the limelight.
If, as we keep being told, he simply wants to play football, I have a solution for him. Radical, but by far the safest for the already frail sanity of English football.
Quit. Live off your riches and play non-league football. Actually, why not five-a-side on Thursday nights for the local pub team? That way, Wayne gets his football fix and is free of the traps of the modern game.
And before you scoff at what sounds like a pointless, unworkable solution, just think: would we miss him? England wouldn’t. He’s been consistently the worst international performer for a long time and adds nothing to our team (I’m still waiting for someone to convince me otherwise). Would Utd miss him? On Sunday’s showing at Stoke, possibly not.