Manchester United are continuing to claim that Wayne Rooney is not for sale at any price. But should they be selling him to Chelsea and letting the Blues make the same mistake all over again?
There’s no doubt that Roman Abramovich holds the purse strings at Stamford Bridge. If he likes a player, they invariably end up up the club sooner or later. The problem for all parties is that it’s usually later.
When Abramovich took over in 2003, it was immediately clear that he wanted Ukrainian striker Andriy Shevchenko to join him in west London. By the time he had convinced AC Milan to part with their star striker it was 2006 and Shevchenko was weeks away from turning 30.
The great man arrived with a massive price tag and performances that didn’t live up to it. His patchy form led to pundits and fans criticising him, which hit his confidence and caused his form to get even worse.
In 2011, Chelsea did almost exactly the same thing with Fernando Torres. Yes, he was still in his mid-to-late twenties at the time but he had been struggling with form and fitness at Liverpool.
Abramovich paid way over the odds and it’s difficult to imagine anybody would make a case that they’ve got value for money from the Spaniard.
Which brings us to the Rooney situation. The England striker is aged 27, just like Torres was when he joined Chelsea. He too has started to struggle with his form at one of the biggest clubs in the country.
He has been playing regular first-team football since the age of 16 – much like Torres – and looking after his body has never really been his forte as a player.
And yet Chelsea are poised, chequebook at the ready, to spend another massive sum of money. It looks like the same mistake again to us.
It’s symptomatic of Abramovich’s fantasy football thinking. He assured fans that he would develop homegrown talent at Chelsea, but that hasn’t yet materialised.
It’s almost as if you have to have reached a certain level of global recognition in order to catch the Russian’s eye as a potential marquee striker. Unfortunately, the way you earn that recognition is by playing the best football of your career. Abramovich seems happy to capture these top talents when they’re coming down the hill the other side.
A stocky figure at the best of times, Rooney is not going to be finding extra pace over the next couple of years and lacks the physical presence of somebody like Didier Drogba. It’s unlikely he will be able to lead the line in what has become the typical Chelsea striker role for too long.
So, do you drop him deep at the expense of Juan Mata, Eden Hazard, Oscar and co? Seems unlikely and short-sighted.
In the shape of Romelu Lukaku, they’ve already got a striker who fits into the system, has pace, power and finishing, and has the potential to develop into one of the best players in the world while he’s at Chelsea.
That’s got to be a more favourable option.