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[OPINION] Rooney back at Everton is most important transfer of year

Let me say this in advance - as an Arsenal fan I detest Wayne Rooney. Over the last 13 years I’ve called him every name you can imagine, as well as some you probably can’t. Seeing him line up for Manchester United for their inevitable bi-annual thumping of Arsenal has annoyed me for years.

I’m a football fan. Irrational levels of hatred for other teams’ players is normal. And that’s why Rooney making his return to Everton after 13 years and 12 major trophies at the Red Devils is so important.

When the rumour of his return first started doing the rounds, people (myself included) acted as expected:

“Oh, he’s turning 200 years old next month”.

“His time as a footballer is done, he’s just going to sit on the bench”.

“He’s only going to Everton because nobody else wants him”.

And yes, Wayne Rooney is ‘old’ (he’s 31. I mean, come on). Yes, he may no longer be the explosive 16-year-old who left Merseyside all those years ago. Hell, he might even sit on the bench at the Toffees here and there. I suppose you’d also be right in pointing out that one of Europe’s major clubs haven’t swooped in with a £100 million offer for the man.

That’s not the point, though.

We live in an era of ridiculous money for footballers. China’s sudden interest in the Beautiful Game has taken that money from their already ridiculous levels to new heights beyond any sense or reason. Take Oscar, for example. The 25-year-old seemed to have a reasonable future ahead of him. He was playing for Chelsea, as well as his national Brazil.

He was earning good money in the process, and all was looking quite rosy (he’s another one who annoyed me. Mouse-faced ***). That is, until Shanghai SIPG came along and offered Chelsea US$74 million for the midfielder, and have given him a reported eye-watering $490,000 a week as a salary.

Back to Wayne Rooney. While we might argue that he’s past his best years as a footballer, can we honestly say that he has dropped so far that he isn’t good enough to ply his trade in China? Not even I’d suggest that, and I’ve told his face on the TV many times that he’s a useless *. Let’s also not be naïve and suggest that a household name like Wayne Rooney couldn’t convince his agent to get him ANY offers from China.

If not China, then why not the USA? As we know, they don’t mind players who are over the ‘decomposing’ age of 30. David Beckham played there well into his 30s. As did Steven Gerrard (hated him) and Thierry Henry (loved him). They pay well, and I’m damn certain that Wayne Rooney could get a few sizeable offers to go and play over there.

He didn’t do that, though.

He went back to the club that he supports. The club he played for at the age of nine. And while I admit I haven’t recently sat in on the financial board meetings at Everton, I’ll bet they didn’t offer him $490,000 a week.

Traditionally speaking, football has always been a game of passion. And while the money on offer nowadays has killed a lot of that passion for the players, for the fans it’s still about the love for your club. As an Arsenal fan myself, trophies haven’t been too forthcoming over the last 10 years, so passion has kept me glued to the TV. For Everton fans, major trophies haven’t been on the horizon at all, so passion is ALL that keeps you going to Goodison Park every weekend.

When Rooney made the decision to return to them, it gave the middle finger to money as the sole objective of being a footballer. And I think we need to recognise this, irrespective of who we support.

Yes, we can argue that he may sit on the bench at Goodison Park.

At least he can do it with pride, not just ageing in front of the fans, but ageing as one of them.

And to that, Mr Rooney, I take my hat off to you.

*It’s been reported that Rooney took a significant pay cut in moving to Everton.

Matt Young is a sports reporter at Eyewitness News.

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