Wayne Rooney said Thursday he was staying with Manchester United following persistent speculation he could make a lucrative move to the Chinese Super League.
British media reports said Rooney’s agent, Paul Stretford, had been in China speaking to interested clubs but the United and England captain insisted he was remaining at Old Trafford.
“Despite the interest which has been shown from other clubs, for which I’m grateful, I want to end recent speculation and say that I am staying at Manchester United,” the 31-year-old Rooney said in a statement released to Britain’s Press Association.
“I hope I will play a full part in helping the team in its fight for success on four fronts.
“It’s an exciting time at the club and I want to remain a part of it,” added Rooney, whose current United contract runs until mid-2018, with the club holding the option to extend it by a further year.
Speculation over the experienced forward’s future has intensified in recent weeks with Rooney often sidelined by United manager Jose Mourinho.
Chinese clubs said to be interested in Rooney, United’s all-time leading scorer, included Guangzhou Evergrande, Beijing Guoan, Jiangsu Suning and Tianjin Quanjian.
British media had reported that he could earn up to $1 million a week, making him the world’s best paid player, but Rooney’s statement has at least ended the debate over his future ahead of the closure of the CSL transfer window next Tuesday.
Rooney missed Wednesday’s Europa League last-32 second leg in Saint-Etienne through injury, but dominated conversation in France.
Mourinho said that Rooney’s future was in his own hands in comments at his pre-match press conference that only fuelled the speculation.
“You’ll have to ask him,” Mourinho said. “You have to ask him. “Of course I can’t guarantee (he will be here). I can’t guarantee that I’m here next week, how can I guarantee that a player is here next season?”
– ‘Legend’ –
However, the Portuguese boss — previously in charge of United’s Premier League rivals Chelsea — added: “What I can guarantee is that if Wayne one day leaves the club it is not because I want him to leave the club.
“That’s the only thing I can guarantee.
“I would never push — or try to push — a legend of this club to another destiny.
“So you have to ask him if he sees himself staying in the club for the rest of his career or if he sees himself moving. It is not a question for me because I am happy to have him.”
Rooney has won five Premier League titles and a Champions League trophy since joining as an 18-year-old for £27 million ($34 million, 32 million euros) from Everton in 2004.
Now the immediate football issue for Rooney will be whether he’s fit enough to play in Sunday’s League Cup final against Southampton at Wembley.
Questions over Rooney’s long-term future are bound to remain, however, and it is still possible that he could, at some stage, follow the likes of former United team-mate Carlos Tevez, ex-Chelsea midfielder Oscar and striker Odion Ighalo, previously with Watford, in making a big-money move to the Far East.
England’s all-time top scorer, Rooney has won 119 caps and is closing in on goalkeeping great Peter Shilton’s national record of 125 appearances.
Rooney has, however, already announced plans to retire from international football after next year’s World Cup in Russia.