Today, Wayne Rooney has re-joined Everton on a free transfer, having agreed a two-year contract, 13 years after he left to join Manchester United.
At the same time, Everton’s top scorer, Romelu Lukaku, looks likely to join Man Utd in a £75m plus add-ons deal. Rooney’s move to Everton is believed to be part of the deal for Lukaku.
The general consensus seems to be that Man United have got one over on Everton here. Man Utd are getting Everton’s best player over the past few seasons, and the natural goal scorer they need to replace Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and at the same time are getting rid of a player who has become a bit of a problem for them.
Rooney’s performances and effectiveness are a shadow of what they once were, largely as a result of the huge number of games he’s played throughout his career. He is no longer mobile enough to carry the attack for United, and all attempts to move him into a second striker role or a different position have failed. At the same time, the massive contract he was on and the status he has at the club meant that questions are asked when Jose Mourinho chose not to play him.
So, it made sense for United to pay up the last year of Rooney’s contract and allow him to re-join the club he has supported since he was a kid. Especially when they are getting one of the best Premier League goalscorers to replace him.
But, I think that while this deal makes a lot of sense for Man Utd, it makes a lot of sense for Everton too.
It became clear last season that Lukaku wanted to leave Everton. His performances towards the end of the season suggested his mind was elsewhere. He was offered a big wage increase and turned it down. With two years left on Lukaku’s contract, this transfer window was Everton’s last opportunity to sell him for market value, or keep a player who doesn’t want to be there and lose him anyway for less money.
In return they are getting a player who will be overjoyed to be returning to the club he clearly loves. Despite his success to date, Rooney will be desperate to add to his trophy haul with his boyhood team, and while Everton aren’t short of experienced players, a player who has won almost everything there is to win has to be an asset if Everton go deep into some of the cup competitions.
This deal makes sense for Everton financially. It is believed that Rooney has signed a deal worth around £150,000 per week (or £15.6m in total excluding any bonuses). So, while that is still a huge amount of money, in football terms that’s not a large amount to pay for a player, even a squad player if that’s all Rooney turns out to be.
The only potential risk to Everton is that it will mean players will ask for greater wages in the future and it could leave some of their current players considering their current contracts. The club seemed to balk at Ross Barkley’s wage demands, which were less than they have given to Rooney, and now the Rooney deal has gone through, Barkley will be wondering why Everton wouldn’t offer him a similar deal.
The Everton team Rooney returns to are much better than the one he left, both on and off the pitch. On the pitch, Everton are a much stronger and much more consistent team. Ronald Koeman managed Everton to qualifying for next season’s Europa League and the hope is that this season Everton may be able to aim even higher.
Off of it, Everton have an ambitious owner in Farhad Moshiri who seems determined to raise Everton back to being one of the elite teams in England. He’s managed to get the ball rolling on a new stadium, which will be rolled into Liverpool’s bid to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games. He’s also given the green light for Everton to make some ambitious transfer this summer. I think that so far, Everton have been the best club in terms of improving their team, with the promise of more to come with the Lukaku money coming in.
The big question for Everton is what can Rooney add to the team? It seems likely that Everton won’t be relying on Rooney to replace Lukaku’s goals, so where will they play him?
The obvious answer to that may be as a second striker, or an attacking midfielder, but Everton are well served in those positions at present, even if Barkley leaves, and, as I’m writing this, seem likely to add another player in that position, with Swansea’s Gylfi Sigurdsson rumoured to be coming to Goodison Park.
Everton will be hoping that while it seems like Rooney’s days as a man who can lead an attack are over, he may be rejuvenated by his move back and can still help the team on the pitch. Looking at the pictures of Rooney when he was signing his contract, he looks to be a lot leaner than he’s been for the past few seasons, and that may translate into him moving around the pitch a lot better than he has for a while.
If Everton use him in situations where his lack of pace or limited mobility won’t be a liability, then Rooney’s passing ability and threat from set-pieces will still make him useful to Everton.
Even if Rooney’s transfer doesn’t add a great deal to Everton on the pitch, it will off of it. Rooney, even at this stage of his career, is a big name. His signing is a clear signal of ambition, and that could help Everton sign other big-name players going forwards.
I think that Everton bringing Wayne Rooney back is a good decision. The potential upside of this move is massive, and it could be a move that galvanises the whole club. But, even if two years from now Rooney is quietly released with his return not having worked out, Everton won’t really have lost anything. This is definitely a risk worth taking.