The view at Chelsea on their pursuit of Wayne Rooney has not changed from when they first went after him at the end of last season: the club believe that they will sign the England striker by the time the transfer window shuts on 2 September.
Rooney has already played golf at some of the more exclusive courses in the area to the west of the club’s training ground around the M3 corridor, and he is sold on the idea of moving to Surrey, both professionally and personally.
At Chelsea, the view is that if they were to find themselves in Manchester United’s position, they would not beg an unhappy player to stay – so, the reasoning goes, why should United do it? In terms of the status of the club they are buying from, this is new ground for Chelsea, but they feel that the advantage is with them.
With two years left on his contract, there would be a major decision to make on Rooney either way at United. He could not be allowed to drift towards the last year of his deal where, history tells us, players tend to hold out for free agent status. Simply keeping Rooney, on the same contract, is not really a long-term option for United, because they will be confronted with the situation again in January and next summer.
Come next summer, Rooney will enjoy the greater leverage. He will be a few months away from his 29th birthday and considerably less valuable with just 12 months on his contract. It is these factors, along with the individual’s considerable capacity to face United down, that give Chelsea confidence that they will land their prize.
On the club’s pre-season tour of south-east Asia last month, manager Jose Mourinho’s repeated references to players wishing to establish themselves for a place in their country’s World Cup finals squads was a recurring theme. Although he did not refer to Rooney by name, with the two clubs having agreed not to discuss the matter, it was the forward whom he was talking about. The World Cup is a major factor in Rooney’s thinking. Given England’s lack of options he would probably be first-choice even as a bit-part player at United. But he regards Chelsea as his best option, and Mourinho’s insistence that he will be the main striker is a major factor in the move.
Delivering arguably England’s best player to the World Cup finals – qualification notwithstanding – fit and raring to go will be a major part of Mourinho’s rhetoric if he does pull off this signing.