Wayne Rooney's lack of galáctico factor means Real Madrid move is unlikely

Real Madrid were interested in signing Wayne Rooney – six years ago. Reports of renewed interest do not come from Spain

"But you know who Florentino really likes?"

"No. Who?"

"Wayne Rooney … now there's a player he'd love to sign."

So ran the conversation with one of the Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez's closest confidants. Rooney, he explained, had something about him: it was more than just talent. Rooney is compelling; it is hard to take your eyes off him. He can play a bit too. "Fascination" was a word used repeatedly. And Real Madrid's experience with David Beckham and, more pertinently, Michael Owen and even Jonathan Woodgate had revealed the significance of the English market.

So far, so good. But that conversation took place at least six years ago now. A move for Rooney never happened – not even a serious approach – and much has happened since. Pérez left the presidency and came back again. Rooney never became the best player in the world. Rated and admired here, yes; a galáctico, no.

Thursday morning's Spanish sports newspapers have picked up on British reports suggesting Real Madrid will make a bid for Rooney in the summer, but it is very much someone else's story, with the emphasis on "story".

It is a story that has its genesis in England's north-west not central Spain. The timing, with Juan Mata's move to Manchester United close to completion, is not entirely coincidental. There may be something behind it: a warning to Chelsea that they will not be the sole bidders perhaps, even if it's very possible that will be exactly what they are. And interest from elsewhere, if invented, is often the best leverage in any negotiations: it has been used before, not least by Rooney's camp. Rooney has asked people to investigate a Spanish exit before. But that too was some time ago now, and it was Barcelona that most attracted. José Mourinho's very public pursuit of him in the summer made it clear that Rooney wanted to move to Chelsea. Neither Mourinho nor Rooney have shown any sign of changing their minds.

Madrid have made no bid for Rooney and nor, at this stage, do they plan to. Presented with the idea, the word that best defines the response is: "dismissive". Which is not necessarily definitive: truth is a rare commodity, especially here. But right now Rooney does not fit the ideas that define Madrid's approach. It is not just that we don't yet know who Madrid will sign in the summer, it is that they do not yet know. A left-back, a central midfielder (Borussia Dortmund's Ilkay Gündogan, perhaps) and a striker are the positions to be filled.

The departure of Mourinho shifted the balance at the Bernabéu. In terms of transfers, Madrid became presidential once more. Power, populism and politics play their part; the names have got bigger. Pérez is under pressure and wants a bombastic signing. In the worst case scenario – and it is one that he has of course contemplated – he believes he may even need one. Madrid are well placed to win something this season, maybe even the 10th European Cup that obsesses them, but there is no guarantee.

On the one hand, there has been a drive to españolizar the squad, to Spanishify it. Daniel Carvajal, Isco and Asier Illarramendi have arrived; the Sevilla full-back Alberto Moreno could be next. On the other hand, there are the star signings. Signing galácticos is less simple than it was, there is not a rotating catalogue "world's best" to pick from as there once was: of the planet's two outstanding players, way ahead of the rest, one is already at Madrid and the other is Leo Messi. Then there's Gareth Bale and Neymar: they too are in Spain, at Real and Barcelona.

To fulfil that desire, Madrid almost need a brilliant player to emerge elsewhere, someone upon whom to focus. A man of the moment to pursue. A Ballon d'Or candidate would be perfect. Franck Ribéry, for example. But as Karl-Heinz Rummenigge admitted Madrid have tried before and were turned down. Bayern have a capacity to resist that most clubs can only envy. The idea that Madrid always get their man is simply not true: it is just that you hear less of those who did not arrive. Nor is it true that the money is endless, even if when it comes to the galáctico the idea is that the players pay for themselves. Priorities, which are not always footballing ones, mean funds will be found though.

Mesut Özil's departure is easily explained: he paid for half of Gareth Bale. In the summer, Real Madrid spoke to Luis Suárez about a move to the Bernabéu and recently sought to persuade Robert Lewandowski not to join Bayern. A return for Suárez is certainly plausible. It is inconceivable that the Uruguayan did not include a buy-out clause in his recently renewed contract but it will of course be substantially higher than the £40m one that lacked the legal weight to see him walk away before.

The interest in Suárez is certainly there. Add an impressive World Cup and the attraction will be greater. These players must present their case, and Rooney has not done so for a long time.

It is not so much a case of Madrid identifying and pursuing their candidates, as the candidates emerging first for Madrid to pursue. If Rooney emerges as a star from Brazil, then his name will be on the list again. If.

comments powered by Disqus