Incoming Manchester United manager, David Moyes, described want-away Wayne Rooney as “one of the best players in the world” and “one of the last street footballers” last night.
Moyes’ comments have been interpreted as a sign that he will try to keep England international Rooney at Old Trafford next season, even as the Scouser becomes more of a hate figure amongst the United faithful by the day.
Rooney has officially asked to leave United, but the club insists he is not for sale. They only recently gave him a contract extension and increased his massive salary to ward off his flirtation with Manchester City.
Rooney's lastest bout of melodrama has led the otherwise jubilant United fans to boo him at the club's Premier League trophy parade on Monday.
Alex Ferguson suggests that Rooney has been miffed at his frequent place in Robin van Persie’s shadow this season, while the spectre of the player’s bad relationship with Moyes has also been raised in some quarters.
The fact that Moyes has not said outright that he wants to keep Rooney however, suggests that the pragmatic approach of flogging the forward to the highest bidder remains an option.
The problem is that very few teams in world football can afford to pay both the transfer fee United would demand for Rooney, or his estimated £300,000-a-week salary.
"I don't watch all Manchester United games," Moyes said of Rooney on Monday night.
"But he is definitely one of the best players in the world.
"I remember watching him during training [as a teenager at Everton] and he was amazing," Moyes added.
"We [the staff] asked each other: 'Did he just do that?' I believe he is the last street footballer, the kind like in Glasgow."
With Chelsea, PSG and Bayern Munich credited with interest in Rooney, but United unresolved about what to do with him, Rooney is poised to become the January transfer window’s biggest headline generating saga.