Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho has indicated an interest in signing Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney if the player cannot be persuaded to stay at Old Trafford.
United manager Sir Alex Ferguson confirmed in an astonishing statement yesterday that Rooney's representatives had told United chief executive David Gill on August 14 that the player wanted to leave.
The timing of that announcement from Rooney's camp rules out the possibility that the reason for Rooney seeking a move had anything to do with any unhappiness over the handling of an ankle injury he suffered last month, and Ferguson confirmed the deal United were prepared to offer the player was "the best contract any player could have".
Gill and Ferguson have both stressed to Rooney that the opportunity to resume talks still exists, and though Real are one of the few clubs with the financial muscle to sign Rooney, their coach Mourinho still expects the player to remain at Old Trafford.
However if the club are forced to sell, the Portuguese insisted Real would be among a number of interested parties.
Mourinho told Sky Sports News: "He will stay. He probably wants to leave for some reason but I believe he belongs to Man United, he belongs to Man United fans, he belongs to Old Trafford. I believe he is going to stay.
"But if at the end of the day Man United decide that he is to leave, then give me a call.
"Everybody will be interested (in signing Rooney).
"But I like him, I like Sir Alex, I like Man United and I believe the best thing for him is to stay there for life."
Ferguson revealed the club's determination to head off any temptation to seek a move away by preparing to offer Rooney the most lucrative terms possible.
"Contract issues, over the last 10 years, have accelerated to a degree where they are quite phenomenal," said Ferguson.
"David (Gill) was prepared, following discussions with our owners, to offer Wayne the best contract any player could have.
"Now there is no offer on the table because they are not prepared to listen to one."
The immediate reaction from United supporters was one of resentment towards Rooney and alarm at the possibility of life without their talisman, which will almost certainly come in January.
Rooney's camp are thought to have been surprised by Ferguson's damning statement and explosive interview with MUTV, although, as yet, they have still to make a formal response.
Last night Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp indicated his interest in signing the former Everton player.
"I'm going to speak to my chairman and see if we can get Rooney to Tottenham," Redknapp half-joked ahead of his side's Champions League clash with Inter Milan.
Ferguson, while claiming "the door is still open" to a new deal for Rooney, has driven his argument home quite forcibly, accusing the England star of failing to respect United.
"I was in the office on August 14 and (chief executive) David (Gill) phoned me," outlined Ferguson.
"He had got a phone call from his agent saying that he (Rooney) wasn't signing a contract.
"I couldn't believe it. I just was dumbfounded. I could not understand it because only months before he was saying he was at the greatest club in the world and he wanted to stay for life.
"We just don't know what's changed the boy's mind.
"The next step was going to be important, decisive for us how we deal with the situation.
"I then asked to have a meeting with the boy and he reiterated what his agent had said - he wanted to go.
"The one thing I said was, 'Just remember one thing: respect this club. I don't want any nonsense from you. Respect the club'.
"I don't know if he's done that. I have got doubts on that because we're reading things about falling out with me and all that nonsense. It's disappointing because we have done everything we possibly can to help Wayne Rooney from the minute he's come to the club."Reuse content