Money, not ambition, driving Rooney
LONDON -- Now that we know Wayne Rooney is likely gone from Manchester United, the $64,000 question -- or should that be the $79 million question, reflecting his possible transfer value -- is why?
Why, indeed, would the 24-year-old want to leave one of the biggest clubs in the world, a place where he's turned into a hero, made tons of cash on and off the field and honed his skills working under revered boss Alex Ferguson, as well as alongside consummate pros Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes?
Yes, at this point, there are more questions than answers, even if Rooney shed some light on the situation with a statement on Wednesday.
Let's further speculate for a second.
Two theories are making the rounds, assuming we can rule out a bust-up with Ferguson. Fergie went to great lengths Tuesday in his somber press conference to emphasize no such argument occurred, and as far as we know, Rooney never got a boot in the face. He didn't mention anything untoward in the statement.
So theory one: It's the cash. Greed, to be blunt. Of course, Rooney would never admit it.
Rooney is making roughly $140,000 a week, a tidy sum, although relative pocket change for Manchester City's owners. Reports suggest Rooney could land a staggering $365,000 a week should he make the short hop to the blue side of Manchester. Even though Ferguson said Tuesday that United's contract offer on the table for Rooney would be hard to beat, City will come out on top if it's just a matter of which club has the deeper pockets. Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini, earlier Wednesday, sidestepped the issue of a potential January swoop.
"Rooney is a great player, but I think he'll stay at United," Mancini told reporters, understandably playing it safe and mirroring the words of Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho.
The second theory, and the one Rooney predictably followed, states that Rooney's departure is all about ambition. Rooney sees that United is in debt, knows the manager can't buy the players he wants, knows Scholes and Giggs won't be around much longer and thus rationalizes he won't get any league or Champions League titles in the next few years. That was the theory being put forward by Manchester United Supporters' Trust (MUST).
It's also ridiculous. MUST likes to take a pop at United's owners, the Glazer family, anytime it can.
Fergie has shown enough times in the past he can restructure -- "rebuilding" overstates matters -- squads. If a committed Rooney stays, United still challenges on all fronts. If he goes, you can bet Fergie will be allowed to spend the proceeds on another world-class performer or two.
What megastar has moved to another team based on potential? In recent seasons, Cristiano Ronaldo left United for Real Madrid, his boyhood club; Kaka swapped A.C. Milan for Real Madrid; Ronaldinho went to A.C. Milan after Barcelona; and Thierry Henry moved from Arsenal to Barcelona.
Rooney won't go abroad. He's not the continental sort, so we're talking primarily about City as his destination. City isn't even assured a spot in next season's Champions League. If striker Carlos Tevez sustains a long-term injury, the Blues are in big trouble. Yet Rooney has the nerve to say, "It's all about winning trophies."
So, as much as Rooney can dress it up as ambition, it's the money that appears to be the motivating factor in this saga. A sad truth, but one becoming more and more frequent.
London-based Ravi Ubha covers soccer and tennis for ESPN.com.