Wayne Rooney - The Truly Modern Footballer

Whilst Rooney may never quite live up to predictions of grandeur, you can't fault the way in which he tucks away a contract negotiation. Three hundred thousand pounds...

Last Updated: 20/02/14 at 08:11 Post Comment

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So, then. Three hundred thousand pounds a week.

It's a lot of money, of course it is; about a seventh of a Michu. But then the sharp end of footballers' wages long since departed the ordinary world of remuneration - where the money earned sits in some kind of ratio to the work done - and shot out into the stratosphere of numbers too big to really contemplate or understand. Into the world of figures so large that they could only ever be paid out by and to the truly evil or the flagrantly ridiculous. Wayne Rooney falls into the latter category, probably.

Obviously, Manchester United intend to extract maximum value for their eye-bleeding investment, and if the rumours are true then Rooney will be acting not just as a footballer, but also as chief scout, captain, performance analyst, consigliere, navigator, kit man, barista, barrister, consultant dendromancer, brand ambassador, hostage negotiator, sous chef, gondolier, minister without portfolio, and skip for the Manchester United curling team. Value for money, if you tot it all up.

Should he see the contract out, then he'll have been with the club 14 years. He'll have added significantly to his 208 goals to date, likely breaking the scoring record of Holy Trinitarian/noted anti-Mourinho lobbyist Bobby Charlton in the process. Such numbers should inspire gratitude, and yet the reaction to the contract extension from United fans runs the full gamut: there are those that are delighted, naturally, but also those who are coolly ambivalent, and plenty enough that are straight-up vexed.

Such is the price of disloyalty. Or rather, such is the price of repeated, reported disloyalty allied to a vague sense of detachment and an even vaguer sense of disappointment. We've talked about the last point before, but it is still a wrench to watch that teenaged goal against Arsenal in the knowledge that the kid on the screen is going to grow up into an exceptionally well-decorated but at the same time weirdly-muted footballer, his career spotted less by moments of divine inspiration and more by a tendency to simmer with apparently motiveless rage, like a man who suffers with persistent indigestion and has decided that it can only be the fault of the referee.

Though the precise number and nature of his myriad transfer requests is contested and may never be fully established, greater than zero is never a good look. What's peculiar is that wantawayishness isn't necessarily poisonous in itself to a player's reputation with his club's fans. Perhaps things can never be fully repaired, perhaps there will always be some mild scarring, but still. Nothing should ever be wholly broken forever. Yet Rooney's apologies have always had something of the half-arsed about them; there in form, but lacking the usual feeling (or pretence of feeling) that the situation demands. "I feel like I have apologised to the fans, but everyone keeps saying that I haven't and, if that is the case, then I apologise for my side of things." Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea minima culpa.

It is, obviously, something of a shame; barring something wholly inexplicable in Brazil this summer, all of his medals will come tinged with this lingering, ambient sadness. He may not care, of course, but what use is a life of extreme wealth, personal fulfilment, and professional validation if it's all achieved in the knowledge that several hundred thousand people think you're a bit of a pillock and probably won't put you in their all-time XI? Don't answer that.

And to give Rooney his due, there has never been a player so wondrously gifted at the super-important business of nailing the contract renewal. He may never have become the White Pele that song, hope and hype demanded, but if he signs this new deal it will be undeniable: when it comes to negotiations, he's Gerd Muller. Whatever the angle, whatever his position, whatever the general state of things, there he is, tucking it away.

In that sense, he's exactly the player that modern football, and modern Manchester United, entirely deserve. A machine for moving money from there to here. A brand, eternally leveraging itself. Three hundred thousand pounds a week. The lad truly has shaken the world.

Andi Thomas - you can follow him on Twitter, you know, and you can read more of his work at SBNation

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