Either Wayne Rooney has a twisted sense of humor or it must be April Fool’s Day.
The Manchester United striker shocked the soccer world twice this week when he said he wanted to leave the English Premier League club -- and then again after pulling a U turn and extending his contract with the Red Devils until June 2015.
Rooney, who will turn 25 on Oct. 24, alienated a lot of people early in the week as fans, players, and management were disappointed after hearing he didn’t want to sign a new contract. While the British press is notorious for printing rumors and other types of gossip, this situation was a little different -- the fractured relationship was confirmed by both Rooney and United’s manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
The team’s players and Ferguson were also slighted when Rooney said his main concern was the strength of the squad. In other words, he wanted assurances from the club that its main objective was to go after trophies.
But everybody kissed and made up pretty quickly as Rooney met with Ferguson and chief executive officer David Gill before signing on the dotted line on Oct.22. The player said Ferguson and the club owners convinced him to stay and he then apologized to team officials and players for causing such a stir. He said he’d apologize to the fans next.
That’s probably a good idea as many United supporters viewed him as a traitor, especially when reports of him signing with cross-town rivals Manchester City were published. Some fans even went as far as picketing outside of Rooney’s home and threatening him by spray painting, “Sign with City and you’re dead” over top of a downtown Manchester billboard.
But while Rooney said the main reason he changed his mind about leaving was because of his fondness for Ferguson, there was another factor too. That’s right, money. His original contract was due to expire in June 2012, so it’s really a three-year extension. The old contract was basically ripped up and a new one put in place that sees him earn about 150,000 pounds a week, which is close to U.S. $250,000. He was reportedly earning about 90,000 pounds a week on his old deal. Rooney’s now the highest-paid player on the team, ahead of defender and England teammate Rio Ferdinand.
Most soccer experts in Britain are putting the whole situation down to Rooney receiving bad advice from his agent and others close to him. His personal life has come under scrutiny lately and he’s been heavily criticized for his off-pitch activities, such as hiring hookers while his wife was about to give birth to their child. His play has suffered from the publicity and going public to get a new contract probably wasn’t the wisest thing to do after the year he’s had.
However, it’s still unclear if Rooney will actually see this contract out and sportsbooks are already taking wagers in betting-mad Britain on whether or not he’ll leave United before his contract expires. Many people view the threat to leave as nothing more than a ploy to make more money. Ferguson has a long memory when it comes to players who have crossed him in the past and several of them such as David Beckham, Roy Keane, Jaap Staam, were soon sent packing from Old Trafford.
It’ll be interesting to see how Ferguson reacts to the Rooney drama. As for the fans reaction, we’ll have to wait a while to find out considering Rooney’s on the sidelines for the next three weeks due to an ankle injury.
United’s next game is on Oct. 24 at Stoke City. 5Dimes Sportsbook has the odds of a Manchester win at 5/8 and a Stoke victory at 9/2. The odds of a draw are 13/5.