Former England captain and Manchester United player, Wayne Rooney has opened up on how close he came to moving to Spain when his time at Manchester United looked all but over in 2010.
Rooney rocked United and manager Sir Alex Ferguson by handing in a transfer request in 2010 and was ready to leave Old Trafford, putting their Premier League rivals and Europe’s elite on alert.
And Rooney has admitted that, for a couple of days at least, he was looking at Barcelona’s setup under Pep Guardiola and imagining how he would fit ‘perfectly’ in that all-conquering side with players such as Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi.
In a report by UK’s Daily Mail, Rooney remarked: “’In my head, at the time, in that two-day period, I was ready to go and play in Spain,’ Rooney told the United podcast.
‘Ideally, I would have liked to have gone to Barcelona, but it was looking more likely to be Real Madrid than Barcelona. Chelsea were always there as well.
‘I remember sitting down for one day and thinking “imagine playing in that Barcelona team – Messi, Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets”. And at that time Messi wasn’t playing the way he plays now, as a No 9 for instance. He was out wide.
‘I was thinking I could have slotted in perfectly. I could have come to the ball as well and have players running in behind. I remember thinking about that.’
Rooney admitted that in terms of Premier League rivals, Chelsea and Manchester City were leading the chase for his signature.
‘I think it was well documented that Chelsea and Mourinho wanted to sign me,’ Rooney said.
‘There was Real Madrid, Barcelona and the Man City thing keeps cropping up, but there was never the option for me to go there. Although there were rumours on that as well, but the other three, really, were more realistic options.’
As it was, Rooney decided to remain at United. He signed a new five-year contract and stayed until 2017 – and eventually worked under Mourinho at the club – before later rejoining his boyhood side Everton.
Upon signing the terms that saw him remain at Old Trafford in 2010, Rooney cited Ferguson’s influence.
‘I said on Wednesday the manager’s a genius and it’s his belief and support that convinced me to stay,’ he explained.
n recent weeks, Rooney has opened up on his relationship with Ferguson and how, for all their successes together, he was dismayed over the legendary manager’s approach to the 2009 and 2011 Champions League finals.
‘We lost two Champions League finals going toe-to-toe with Guardiola’s Barcelona, by trying to press high and get round them, which was suicidal,’ Rooney wrote earlier this year in his Sunday Times column.
‘I remember Alex Ferguson saying “we’re Man United and we’re going to attack, it’s in the culture of this football club” and thinking “I’m not too sure about this”.
‘I think all the players knew, deep down, it was the wrong approach, that we were abandoning the way that had brought us success in that 2008 semi-final — and sure enough both times we got outplayed.
‘There is being true to the club, but then there’s sitting back afterwards and thinking “we lost”.’
Rooney has otherwise been effusive in his praise of Ferguson and underlined how much he relished working with the Scot at United.
Together, they won five Premier League titles at United and the Champions League in 2008.
Speaking to Sportsmail in 2018, Rooney said: ‘I was in a dressing room with Gary Neville and Roy Keane. I was 19 having rows with Gary, even with Alex Ferguson. That’s how it should be.
‘Sir Alex was really clever like that. He knew who he could have a go at, who it was best to leave alone. He always knew it brought the best out of me. It wouldn’t work with Nani.’