Reports out of Manchester this afternoon have sourced Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson and chief executive David Gill having confirmed that Wayne Rooney's manager has informed the club of the forward's desire to leave Old Trafford.
Reports over the weekend filtered out that Rooney would not enter contract negotiations with United. His contract is set to expire in 2012. Rooney and Ferguson have had a massive falling out after Rooney's loss of form, the media nightmare surrounding his private life and Ferguson keeping him out of the team because of it.
Whether or not Rooney departs United in January is yet to be seen. United will be anxious to get some value in return for the England superstar. However, Rooney will be cup tied and his inability to play in the Champions League and/or FA Cup will diminish some of his value this season. Further, Rooney could buyout the final year of his contract at the end of the season for £5 million and become available on a free transfer.
United now find themselves in an extremely weak position to negotiate the sale of the most prolific Englishman in the game. There will be very few clubs worldwide that can afford Rooney's wages, his transfer fee or the talent required in a player exchange. Of those clubs, there are even fewer that can fit Rooney into their squads.
If United have to part with Rooney, they would ideally like to move him out of England. The only clubs outside of England with the budget to take on Rooney's wages and fees would likely be Real Madrid and Barcelona.
Real Madrid certainly have the funds available, and coach Jose Mourinho has been an admirer of Rooney's for a number of years. However, Mourinho has said that barring a catastrophe, Madrid will not be adding to its squad in January. Further, with players like Gonzalo Higuain, Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka and Mesut Ozil already on the books, it would be difficult to imagine a place for Rooney at the Bernabeu.
Barcelona looks even less likely than Madrid. Not flushed with the same riches as Madrid, Barca could afford Rooney but would need to involve players moving in the opposite direction. Moving less expensive, homegrown players for Rooney would be in stark contrast to the way Barca operates. And with David Villa, Andres Iniesta and Pedro all playing together for club and country going forward, it seems unlikely to insert Rooney anywhere in that lineup.
The most likely option is that Rooney will remain in England, much to United's chagrin. Of the two teams financially viable to take on Rooney (Chelsea and Manchester City), City appear to be the likely option, furthering United's chagrin.
Chelsea has the funds to make a deal happen, and lack the depth they've enjoyed in seasons past. However, owner Roman Abramovich has lessened the club's reliance on his checkbook. Manager Carlo Ancelotti has placed further emphasis on nurturing talent from within rather than dipping into the transfer market for large purchases.
City, meanwhile, have the financial clout, the goal to assemble the world's greatest football stars and the desire to stick it to United as often as possible no matter the cost. Case in point, the signing of Carlos Tevez for an undisclosed sum is believed to be in the region of £30 and £45 million.
Although City has an embarrassment of riches similar to those in Madrid and Barcelona, they also have the disposable income to sit £25 million men in the stands (see Emmanuel Adebayor).
Whether or not Rooney will find success after Ferguson is anyone's guess. He will find major stumbling blocks wherever he goes. Many pundits have questioned Rooney's ability to settle outside of England. He could very well find himself unable to get on the pitch ahead of Didier Drogba, Nicolas Anelka and Florent Malouda, who have formed the most lethal attack in England. And the media circus surrounding a move from United to City for England's biggest superstar would make today's hype seem sensible.
Regardless, Rooney will move on from Old Trafford and he's very likely to return to form. Whether or not it's Rooney circa 2007/08 or Rooney circa 2009/10 is anyone's guess. How long this will all take and where he will eventually end up are just as uncertain.