Wayne Rooney was on the bench, still nursing a groin injury, as Manchester United kicked off its Premier League fixture against Cardiff City at Old Trafford on Tuesday. But if a published report this week is accurate, Rooney will soon have almost half-a-million reasons to feel better — every week.
The mercurial, superstar striker, The Daily Mail reported Monday, is on the verge of signing a new contract with Manchester United that would keep Wayne Rooney in the Red Devils’ fold beyond the final 18 months of his existing contract by making him the highest paid player in the Premier League. The deal could be final as early as the end of this week, the paper said.
According to the Mail report, the proposed contract would put Rooney on wages of £300,000 per week, including incentive bonuses. That translates to over $497,000 per week in United States cash at current exchange rates — or almost $26 million per year.
Just as a point of comparison for American fans, that salary puts Wayne Rooney at a higher pay grade than any basketball player in the NBA, except for the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant who earns over $30 million per year, according to ESPN.
The next-highest-paid NBA player, Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks, pockets slightly less than $23 million per year.
The highest-paid player in the National Football League, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, collected paychecks totalling $17.5 million for the 2013 season, according to Spotrac, a site that tracks athlete salaries.
The Mail report runs counter to speculation that Wayne Rooney was contemplating an exit from the team that has employed him for the past decade, after he started his Premier League career in 2002 with Everton in Rooney’s hometown of Liverpool.
Rooney was said to be upset at the relatively lackluster performance by the defending Barclays Premier League champs, under new manager David Moyes. Even after Tuesday’s victory over Cardiff, Manchester United still sat in seventh place.
Tuesday’s match saw Rooney make his first appearance since leaving a New Year’s Day defeat to Tottenham Hotspur, entering the Cardiff game midway through the second half.
But it was the recent acquisition of Spanish national team star Juan Mata, thanks to a £37.1 million ($61.5 million) transfer fee paid by Manchester United to Mata’s previous club, Chelsea F.C., that was allegedly the true cause of Rooney’s discontent. The acquisition of Mata could take goals, and even playing time, away from Wayne Rooney.
The fee for Mata was the highest transfer amount ever paid by the Manchester club. But Mata denied that Manchester was not big enough for the two of them.
“I can’t wait to play alongside Rooney,” Mata told reporters in a press conference, reported by The Daily Express. “He is one of the best players in the history of England. He is unbelievable. He can score, he can assist and he can come into midfield to take the ball in midfield. So I think I will enjoy playing alongside him a lot.”
According to Moyes, Wayne Rooney was among the first players to give his personal thumbs-up to the Mata acquisition.