Asda sees star become World Cup footnote

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Supermarket giant Asda has scored an own goal after signing Wayne Rooney for a series of World Cup promotions - less than a month before the Man- chester United star appeared to crash out of the tournament.

The deal is believed to be worth £3m and lasts for the duration of the summer, much like the one Asda struck with fellow striker Michael Owen during Euro 2004. Rooney has already starred in his first campaign for the US-owned retailer, but has now been all but ruled out of the England squad after breaking two bones in his foot.

An Asda spokesman insisted the injury did not change the importance of the deal. "He will do some other things as the summer progresses. He's still very well known, he's a star player and there's no change there."

However, there are fears that the footballer's absence from the World Cup - one of the most lucrative sporting events - could wipe millions off the Rooney brand.

"His value, if he doesn't play in the World Cup, will go down," said Nigel Currie, director at sports marketing agency Brand Rapport. "He has come from nowhere and his value has gone through the roof.

"But the European Championships and the World Cup are the two biggest events and if you are not there, it doesn't matter how good you are - it's still a big missed opportunity."

A strong World Cup would also have helped the 20-year-old Rooney - whose personal fortune is already believed to have reached around £20m - to land further contracts.

An insider at a company that sponsors sporting events said playing in the World Cup was "very important" in selecting deals with footballers. "If someone does well in the World Cup, that's obviously going to be fantastic for the sponsor. It's got to be hugely important."