Wayne Rooney: Can the Manchester United striker move to China?

By Richard ConwayBBC Radio 5 live sports news correspondent
Wayne Rooney
Beijing Guoan, Jiangsu Suning and Tianjin Quanjian are rumoured to be the most likely suitors for Wayne Rooney if he does move to China

If Wayne Rooney is heading to China then where is his most likely destination?

As it stands, there are potentially only three clubs with the necessary financial clout and space in their squad to pull off such a deal.

The Chinese Football Association recently introduced a rule which only allows three foreigners in a club's match-day squad. Teams can have a maximum of five foreign players in their overall squad, which includes one drawn from another Asian country.

Given this, Beijing Guoan, Jiangsu Suning and Tianjin Quanjian are the most likely suitors for Rooney unless other potential employers transfer or loan out one of their existing foreign stars.

Tianjin's manager, Fabio Cannavaro, has said his club did make an approach for Rooneyexternal-link recently but added that he feels the 31-year-old doesn't suit the team's style of play.

Jiangsu, where former Chelsea midfielder Ramires plays, remains an option.

Beijing Guoan had been seen as the most likely destination for Rooney.

It is one of the oldest clubs in China and is rumoured to be supported by President Xi, China's premier who has a vision to turn his country into a sporting superpower.

But sources close to the club said on Wednesday that they are not interested in signing the Manchester United forward.

Wayne Rooney and son Kai
Family lifestyle in China could rule out a move for the Rooney family

Significant barriers remain to any deal being done - some of which may be beyond the negotiating power of Rooney's long-term agent Paul Stretford.

Big-money transfers are complicated and difficult affairs at the best of times, with agreements around image rights, bonus payments, fees and commercial deals needing to be resolved before pen is put to paper.

A deal for Rooney to go to China would come with an added political twist.

That's due to embarrassment within sections of the ruling Communist Party at the sums being spent by CSLexternal-link clubs on foreign players.

Matters were brought to a head recently with the sale of Carlos Tevez to Shanghai Shenhua and the enormous wages he now commands.

An 18-point plan was announced in January, in part to curb what has been called "irrational spending."

It has led to the limits being imposed on the numbers of foreign players within the CSL, all in a bid to boost home-grown talent.

A significant tax is also now levied on transfer fees above a certain threshold - with the government determined to slow down, but not stop altogether, the exorbitant spending that has lured players such as Oscar and managers like Luiz Felipe Scolari to the country in recent years.

Carlos Tevez in Shanghai
Carlos Tevez signed for Shanghai Shenhua from Boca Juniors for a reported deal worth £40m including a salary in excess of £310,000 a week

If Rooney is to be sold, especially to Beijing Guoan, the deal will need to look past such official disapproval. That's unlikely given Guoan are part owned by CITIC, a mega conglomerate corporation owned by the Chinese state.

Sir Alex Ferguson had the final say on Rooney's transfer from Everton to Manchester United. This deal may well require a nod of approval from the Chinese president.

And what of the money? Rooney makes up to £300,000 a week at United, some £15.6m per annum before tax. With a new contract unlikely to be offered by his Old Trafford bosses, it's easy to see the temptation to move to China given the scale of the pay packet he could earn there.

Where else could a player, entering the final years of his career and regarded by some as a fading force on the pitch, expect to double his existing contract?

There will undoubtedly be offers - existing or soon to come - to play in the USA but the amounts MLS teams could offer would likely be dwarfed by those on offer in the Far East.

So there is no doubt that a number of Chinese clubs would welcome Rooney with open arms.

But major questions over whether a transfer works for the player, his family and the Chinese government must first be answered.


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