Director of football Steve Walsh has described a potential return to Everton for Wayne Rooney as "euphoric". Despite recently rejecting lucrative interest from China in order to stay at Manchester United, the England captain is widely expected to depart Old Trafford this summer having been limited to a peripheral role under Jose Mourinho.

Speculation regarding a money-spinning move to the Far East that would likely see Rooney, who last month replaced Sir Bobby Charlton as United's all-time leading scorer, become the world's highest-paid player will inevitably resurface as the months tick down towards the opening of the summer transfer window. It has been speculated that a number of Major League Soccer (MLS) outfits would also be keen on the 31-year-old in the event he does decide to seek pastures new.

A return to Everton, the club he supported as a boy and for whom he established his significant reputation before sealing a high-profile £27m ($33.5m) exit in August 2004, would certainly be the romantic option for Rooney – and Walsh believes the Toffees would be foolish not to register an interest in his signature.

"Wayne Rooney is one of the greatest players that has ever played the game in England and for us not to be interested would be wrong," the former Chelsea scout, who moved to Merseyside last summer after earning rave reviews during his hugely successful stint as joint-assistant manager and head of recruitment at 2015-16 Premier League champions Leicester City, told Sky Sports.

"He started his career here and if the opportunity arose that he could come back and it sat well with everyone, it is something we would consider. He is a class apart, he sees things, and all the things that have been said about Wayne are true. He comes into that category of being one of England's greatest-ever players, so why wouldn't we be interested?

"I think the whole thing would be euphoric. I think we could sell a lot of shirts, that's for sure. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Wayne is contracted to Manchester United and made a decision to continue to play for them. Let's wait and see what happens in the future."

According to The Mirror, Everton failed with an audacious bid to re-sign their former academy graduate during the recent January window. Manager Ronald Koeman remains coy on any possible deal, but did commend Rooney for resisting the financial lure of China.

"I still think Wayne Rooney is playing at a high level and he made a good choice staying at Manchester United and in the Premier League," he said. "He still has two or three years in front of him to play at the highest level. What will happen at the end of the season, I do not know? In my opinion he's one of the players who can make Everton stronger than they are now.

"It's all about what the players likes, what Manchester United need to do and we are not involved in that project. Every player who we feel can make the team stronger is welcome at Everton."