Everton turn down £20m Rooney bid by Newcastle

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A week before the transfer window slams shut until January, Newcastle United were unsuccessful last night in an ambitious attempt to prise Wayne Rooney from Everton. Despite the Goodison Park club's well-chronicled financial problems, Newcastle's £20m offer for the 18-year-old hero of England's Euro 2004 campaign was abruptly rejected.

Newcastle, where Alan Shearer is in his final season before retiring and Sir Bobby Robson has a self-proclaimed policy of trying to sign young English talent, faxed their bid for Rooney at 6pm. Everton's plight means they are currently toying with the idea of a £20m investment from Russia, but Ian Ross, their head of public relations, responded swiftly by confirming that Newcastle's approach had been turned down.

Freddy Shepherd, the Newcastle chairman, has close ties with the ProActive sports agency, headed by Paul Stretford, of which Rooney is a client. However, the offer falls £10m to £20m short of the price Everton would consider accepting for their most prized asset, who is likely to be sidelined for a further fortnight by the damaged metatarsal he sustained during England's European Championship exit against Portugal.

Sources close to Everton indicate that Rooney's preference ­ when he leaves the club he supported as a boy and who gave him a Premiership debut at 16 ­ is for Manchester United. Coincidentally, the chief executive at Old Trafford, David Gill, played down his club's interest at a shareholders' meeting before Newcastle made the bid.

"We could go out tomorrow and borrow the money to buy Rooney for £30m to £40m," Gill said. "But it's bad business to end up with a long-term debt for a short-term asset such as a player." He admitted United "can't compete" with Chelsea now the London club are funded by the Premiership's original Russian investor, Roman Abramovich. United's reported interest in Luis Figo, who may be available for just £5m from Real Madrid, fits in with this philosophy.

In the Machiavellian world of football, there was even speculation yesterday that Newcastle's bid had been made in conjunction with United in an attempt to establish a low starting price in a phoney bidding war. As part of this "arrangement", United's defender John O'Shea was reputedly promised to Tyneside.

Whatever the veracity or otherwise of such stories, Everton were unmoved by the amount offered by Newcastle, who seemed unconcerned by sordid allegations in several tabloids about Rooney's private life. Shepherd, having banked £13.4m from Real Madrid for Jonathan Woodgate, was ready to use the fee for buying Rooney. He may yet make an improved offer, but there are other obstacles to any deal.

Rooney is in no condition to pass a medical before the end of August. And without passing a medical, no purchasing club could secure insurance cover for him. Nor would the timing of a transfer suit Everton, who have offered to increase his wages from £13,000 a week to £50,000 in the hope that he might stay, because the manager, David Moyes, would have only days to bring in fresh signings.

The Everton board meeting to unveil details of their new investor was postponed yesterday at the request of the director, Paul Gregg, who has been trying to wrest control from the chairman, Bill Kenwright.

Gregg, who has had his own £15m investment package blocked by Kenwright, claims he has not had a chance to review the proposal from the 24-year-old Russian, Anton Zingarevich.

Kenwright had hoped to approve Zingarevich's £20m cash injection yesterday and then allow Moyes to bring in some players before the transfer deadline next week.

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