England international Wayne Rooney has been linked to Chelsea before, most famously after handing in a transfer request in 2010. That incident saw him engineer a rather hefty pay rise at United after "changing his mind" about the transfer. The rumours have arisen again this season, following some lacklustre form from the Manchester United striker, but they were always played down as mere speculation.
With the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson this morning, the papers are reporting that Rooney has again expressed a desire to leave the Champions. As of yesterday, Bayern Munich appeared to be the most-likely destination, and it probably still is, but Chelsea have seemingly-emerged as a contender to gazump the German club and land the striker. The Mirror are reporting that the fee would be in the neighbourhood of £30m, while The Mail are reporting a fee closer to £25m.
Neither one would, on its face, seem outrageous for a striker who's averaged nearly a goal every two games in his 400+ game career, and is still just 27. When you think about it, it really isn't. It's a fantastic record. There is a problem, though. This season, Rooney has been in a less-than-stellar form, not helped by his being pushed into a deeper position after the arrival of Robin van Persie. Despite being a striker, he's even played in the centre of midfield. One would assume, though, that a return to leading the line at Chelsea would see him return to the sort of form which saw him score 34 goals in 44 appearances, including 27 in 34 in the Premier League.
I'm not so sure, however. As we've learned from our experience with Fernando Torres, assuming a player will miraculously rediscover form is an exercise in insanity. Rooney, of course, is a much more complete player than Torres ever was, so he's unlikely to suffer quite so big a collapse in form. That doesn't mean he would automatically-return to his previous level. He's 27, and he's played eleven seasons now with more than 35 appearances. That sort of fixture load is notorious for causing massive burnout in players. I think that's reflected in his disturbingly-long injury history.
A serious injury record isn't necessarily a barrier to playing at a high level, though. After all, Demba Ba is mainly held together with Sellotape and glue at this point, but he's been able to remain relatively-healthy. The threat of injury isn't really my biggest concern with Rooney. 35 effective appearances would certainly be helpful at a club like Chelsea. No, my biggest concerns are Rooney's struggle to keep himself at a good weight, his love of a night out, and his propensity to attract controversy. We have players like that, and it's not helped us at all. Chelsea have a less-than-savoury reputation as it is.
So, we have a player in relatively-poor form, at the stage of his career where players traditionally start to burn out. He also has a sketchy injury history, weight problems, and attracts controversy. He's also on somewhere between £220k to £250k p/w. Yeah. Did I not mention that? That's insane money for pretty much anyone, let alone such a high-risk player. Over the course of a five-year contract, as is probable, that represents an FFP hit of £90m. To me, bringing a player known for weight, fitness, and motivation issues to London, with its bevy of restaurants and nightclubs, without some sort of risk-mitigation would be insane.
Ideally, we should be looking at him vastly reducing his wages, and with clauses in his contract to assure he maintains his fitness and controls his behaviour. Whether those could be agreed or if they're even legal is another matter. Then again, this is a club who bought Fernando Torres, so maybe they won't care. I really hope they care, though. If we're going to drop that kind of money on a striker, I'm sure I'm not alone in thinking we could do better. Robert Lewandowski would be much cheaper on both accounts, and even Falcao is likely to be better in the long-term for only marginally-more.
All in all, this is a move I wouldn't necessarily object to, provided that we can get a good deal. In all likelihood, though, we wouldn't get a good deal, so I'd really rather this was relegated to the pile of "random transfer rumours." Who knows, though, maybe the commercial rights and shirt sales would make up for the straight-up economic stupidity the deal could represent. I know FFP is facing a serious legal challenge, but it doesn't mean you need to be stupid. Won't you please think of the children?!