sports gazette

The great ball of China: Rooney heading East to Super League?

Published: 23 Feb 2017

The enticing aroma that is resonating from China towards western footballers is increasing daily, with the financial benefits publicly teasing footballers who may have previously sneered at the idea of heading to East Asia to earn their crust.

Manchester United and England top scorer Wayne Rooney has been associated with rumours suggesting that his time in domestic football is over, and that his services are being touted by clubs from the heavily-financed Chinese Super League.

A year or two ago, it would have been incomprehensible to consider that the all-time top goalscorer for both club and nation would even vaguely consider a move, especially at the youthful age of 31.

The Chinese Super League transfer market closes next Tuesday so any transfer dealings would need to be completed by this point. Rooney’s agent Paul Stretford is currently in China, and people have put two and two together and may have made four.

BBC sports news correspondent Richard Conway travelled to China in 2016 to explore the emergence of Chinese influence in world football and how it will continue to evolve and benefit the people of China. His documentary 'Inside China's Football Factory' helped establish Chinese perspective for a European audience, highlighting that China want to be the 'world's superpower by 2050'.

Conway believes that Rooney’s transfer to the Chinese Super League isn't as far-fetched as it may first appear, however he doesn’t think the transfer will be completed before the transfer window closes.

Conway said: “I think it’s unlikely. I’m not saying it’s impossible, his agent is there today but he has different business interests in China so he could be there for another reason.”

“As with anything with transfers it’s a bit smoke and mirrors, nobody really knows exactly what is going on but there is definite Chinese interest.”

As with anything with transfers it’s a bit smoke and mirrors, nobody really knows exactly what is going on but there is definite Chinese interest.

A player and brand such as Rooney would naturally appeal to Chinese clubs, who are always on the lookout for the new face of Chinese football. However, Conway feels that despite the financially deep pockets that dominate the east, it would take more to get a player like Rooney to brave the move near 5000 miles away. 

Conway said: “Tianjin Quanjian, managed by Italian world cup winner Fabio Cannavaro, said they were interested (in Rooney) but have now said publicly that they are no longer interested so we will have to wait and see on that one.”

“There are only a number of clubs who could afford Rooney and have current free foreign player slots. I think the Beijing clubs are out, I think the Shanghai clubs are out, which is significant because for family reasons. Would Rooney want to go live in a Chinese city that isn’t as international or cosmopolitan as other places? 

Despite his reservations about the transfer taking place before Tuesday, and his doubts over Rooney’s move to China, Conway feels that the ticking clock is ringing loud and clear and that Rooney’s time in Manchester is drawing to an end after 13 years and 250 goals for the team from Old Trafford. 

Conway said: “He will definitely leave Manchester United in the summer, that has become abundantly clear now, that his days are numbered. Will he leave before next Tuesday, I think that is unlikely.”

“If I was advising him, it depends. He has got a young family, is China life for him? It could well be but I think America would be a better fit, simply from a language point of view and a cultural perspective where it might be an easier fit, but he wont get as much money there.”

“But it depends how he is motivated at the moment. Does he just want to play? I don’t know, but it’ll be interesting to see where he will land.”

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