Rooney sold image rights to agent for just £2, court is told

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The England football prodigy Wayne Rooney signed away his image rights for £2 to a "ruthless" sports agent who boasted he would "milk the cow at both ends", a court heard yesterday.

The England football prodigy Wayne Rooney signed away his image rights for £2 to a "ruthless" sports agent who boasted he would "milk the cow at both ends", a court heard yesterday.

Paul Stretford did not suggest that Mr Rooney's family should seek legal advice on the deal, despite a potential conflict of interest that saw him stand to secure income from both Mr Rooney and Manchester United, who recently signed the player from Everton for £27m, Warrington Crown Court heard.

The allegations were made during cross-examination of Mr Rooney's father, Thomas, by Lord Carlile QC, who is defending a boxing promoter accused of blackmailing Mr Stretford. The promoter, John Hyland, 42, a former British Olympic boxer, is said to have intimidated Mr Stretford after gatecrashing a business meeting at a Cheshire hotel in June 2003 and demanding money with menaces.

Accompanied by two other defendants, the brothers Christopher and Anthony Bacon, aged 34 and 38, Mr Hyland is said to have tried to force Mr Stretford to sign a contract in which he would pay a large cut of his future earnings from the footballer.

The row followed months of wrangling over who should represent the teenage striker. Mr Rooney had been a client of the Proform agency, run by the Liverpool agent Peter McIntosh. In June 2002, the Rooneys decided Wayne should join Mr Stretford's Proactive agency when his contract expired at the end of that year.

Mr Stretford told the court that from November 2002 until June 2003 he attended meetings with Mr Hyland and Dave Lockwood, whose X8 sports agency had bought Proform.

Asked by John Hedgecoe , for the prosecution, how the situation was affecting his health, Mr Stretford began to cry and asked for a moment to compose himself. He said: "I developed an arthritic nature in my foot caused by stress. I had to take medication that I'm now on every day of my life. During the course of this I was going for medical insurance and they found a heart defect."

Mr Rooney Snr told Lord Carlile that he had been to see Kevin Dooley, a Liverpool solicitor, for advice while changing his son's agent. He said that he had not been recommended to see Mr Dooley by Mr Stretford or anyone else at Proactive and that he was unaware that Mr Dooley had represented numerous Liverpool players, including Kenny Dalglish, who, the court has heard, owns two million shares in Proactive.

Mr Rooney Snr said he was also unaware at the time that Mr Dooley, now dead, was under investigation over allegations that he defrauded several clients of thousands of pounds.

He added that he was aware that his son had sold his image rights to Mr Stretford for eight years for £2 and knew that Mr Stretford stood to gain £1.5m from the striker's transfer.

Asked by Judge David Hale about the relevance of the questioning, Lord Carlile replied: "What it's got to do with this case is that it is the defence assertion that Mr Stretford was desperate to get Wayne Rooney as his client because he knew he could milk the cow from both ends. If a solicitor was doing that, he would be struck off without a moment's hesitation.

"There is an issue in this case about Paul Stretford's many interests in Wayne Rooney and the ruthless way in which he approached those interests."

The three accused deny blackmail. The trial is expected to last two weeks.