Wayne Rooney returns home to Everton

Everton have today announced the repatriation of Wayne Rooney. Their former prodigy has been brought home from the distant lands of Manchester United, and will be strutting his stuff at Goodison Park once again.

While at United, Rooney got a fair bit done. Over 13 seasons he won five Premier League titles, the Champions League, the Europa League, the FA Cup and three League Cups. He picked up countless individual awards, including the prestigious FIFA Club World Cup Most Valuable Player of the Final, in 2008. He broke Bobby Charlton’s club scoring record, and has set a new mark of 253 for Marcus Rashford to tilt at. And he’s currently on 119 England caps. Not bad going.

Once a Blue, always a Blue

There has always been a certain inevitability about Wayne Rooney’s return to Goodison Park. As the man himself once put it:

And so, 15 years after Rooney thumped the ball over David Seaman’s head, 13 seasons after he handed in his transfer request and moved to Old Trafford, and after an adventure in which he’s become one of the most famous footballers on the planet, had a hair transplant, starred in countless Nike adverts, divided more opinions than Brexit, and — oh, yeah — scored an awful lot of goals, he’s back.

Beyond the questions about his footballing value, it’s all very satisfying, isn’t it? Leg.

Right, those questions about his footballing value

If we consider Rooney as a part of Everton’s general summer business, then he brings various things to the party that the other new signings don’t have. Davy Klaasen and Michael Keane are both 24, Jordan Pickford is 23, Sandro 21 and Henry Onyekuru just 20. So here comes the experienced veteran, possessed of a massive reputation and the medal haul to match. An inspiration. A father figure. A man who has tasted all the flavours of success and found them to be good.

READ ---  Facebook can't hide behind algorithms

We’re saying all this because his actual, on-field, footballing contributions over the last few seasons have been … occasional. Rooney is still capable of moments of Rooney-esque brilliance: witness his slaloming run in the 2016 FA Cup final, or the booming free-kick from an unlikely angle that broke United’s scoring record. But such moments have become increasingly sparse, tiny islands in a sea of slow crossfield passes, clanking first touches, and a lot of exasperated pointing.

Which is why, captaincy and record notwithstanding, Rooney ended last season as a substitute. The moments weren’t enough compensation for the fact that his touch and his passing simply weren’t reliable, and when he was off his game, he made United slow and stodgy. Sorry, slower and stodgier.

Is it a good deal?

For United? We’re not sure yet. Transfer fee details haven’t been released, but a colossal presence off the wage bill and, perhaps more importantly, a nagging selection problem is out of the squad. Godspeed, good luck, and we’ll talk about that statue once everybody’s calmed down a bit.

For Everton? Well … it depends. If there is any value to be had from Rooney-as-inspiration, that’ll be something. But as a footballer, and based on his last couple of seasons, it’s hard to make a case for Rooney improving Everton’s first team. Maybe the return home will be the catalyst he needs for a glorious season of wily, veteran playmaking. Maybe.

And how does this affect the rest of the shopping?

From a financial perspective, United have an operating budget equivalent to Scrooge McDuck’s swimming pool, and Everton’s splurge is likely to be offset by the departures of Romelu Lukaku and Ross Barkley. Nothing dramatic, in other words, however big the wages. Presumably Rooney’s Glorious Homecoming has some commercial value.

READ ---  Gigaba did not meet with the World Bank about SA nuclear programme, says spokesman

From the point of view of other transfers? United have clearly been planning for life without the Roonster, and this shouldn’t change their plans for this summer. Meanwhile Everton still need a direct replacement for Lukaku, and Rooney’s arrival shouldn’t slow that effort down. If the Olivier Giroud move is on, this won’t turn it off.

Let’s all just take a moment to imagine the #GIROONEY partnership, shall we? The Premier League’s two most ‘help me, help me please’ beards, together at last.