Wayne Rooney is refusing to sign a new contract at Everton after an urgent meeting about his future with the club's chairman, Bill Kenwright, and the manager, David Moyes, yesterday. Rooney's advisers are being pressed to commit to a record £5m contract at Goodison Park, but they are stalling for time - helped by the current row between Kenwright and the director, Paul Gregg.
The Rooney camp has given Everton a list of around 50 questions to answer on where the troubled club is heading - and so far only a few have had the response that the striker's team want to hear. Rooney's people want to know about key areas like the club's finances and plans, including possible signings. While it may be a time-wasting tactic by Rooney's team, who know their player's value is dropping by the month, there is cause for worry about Everton's prospects this season and beyond.
The outlook is muddied by the turmoil behind the scenes at the club, with Gregg and Kenwright pulling in different directions, plus the failure to land signings. Kenwright passionately wants to keep Rooney but is under pressure from many sides, and the latest failure to persuade the teenager to sign up means Everton may have to put him up for sale.
The problem for Everton is that the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea are likely to offer less than Everton wanted even a month ago because they are now seen as a club in trouble. Kenwright claimed Rooney was worth £50m during the height of his England success during the European Championship, but there are no takers anywhere near that valuation. Even Moyes admitted that Everton is "doing its washing in public" at the moment.
United could make an opening bid of around £18m if they were given any encouragement, well below what Everton want. And for all of Chelsea's claims that they are not in the market for Rooney, their owner, Roman Abramovich, is still poised and could beat any offer if he wanted Rooney rather than see him join one of their main rivals.
Real Madrid are also on the horizon, but have Patrick Vieira in their sights first. The Spaniards can wait until Rooney's deal at Goodison runs down and the price falls more to their liking.
Even Rooney's camp are claiming the player is "confused and concerned" by the state he finds his beloved club in and a source said: "There is a large part of his heart still at Everton and he would love to stay."
The row between Kenwright and Gregg seems to be disrupting Moyes's pre-season build-up and he had to watch his side lose 2-1 at Crewe in a friendly on Tuesday, while angry Everton fans voiced their fury at the state of the club.
Duncan Ferguson refused the captain's armband - and a peace gesture from Moyes - in the latest row to hit Everton. Ferguson was asked to lead the team out at Crewe but David Weir was made skipper instead.
Ferguson is still fuming that Everton tried to pay him off with a £500,000 golden handshake when he is due around £2m in wages. Moyes is trying to mend bridges with some of the players who are unhappy but his attempt to get onside with Ferguson did not work.Reuse content