Former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson has emphatically dismissed speculation that current employers Shanghai SIPG are ready to offer Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney a lucrative escape route to the cash-rich Chinese Super League (CSL). The 31-year-old's stock has fallen considerably over recent months and he has not started a Premier League fixture under Jose Mourinho since mid-September.
Rooney's painful and protracted regression from influential skipper to bit-part role player has inevitably led to whispers that he could be set to depart Old Trafford. Rumours over a £75m ($91.7m) reunion with Eriksson, who handed the player his international debut as a 16-year-old back in 2003, first circulated last December and recently resurfaced with The Mirror stating that Shanghai were ready to table a huge £80m deal in the new year.
Such a report also claimed that the Red Eagles, who recently finished third in the 2016 CSL and one place above rivals Shanghai Shenhua after closing their campaign with a 3-1 home win over a Hebei China Fortune side managed by ex-Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini, already offered a deal worth in excess of a staggering £500,000-per-week in late 2015.
Despite that, however, Eriksson is keen to stress that a high-profile move for Rooney is not in the club's plans moving forward.
"Everyone knows how much I admire Rooney," he told The Sun. "That's one thing. To make out we are going to sign him is something else. There is absolutely nothing in it, zero. It is not something we have ever even spoken about at the club – and we have been discussing our options for next season a lot."
Shanghai SIPG signed Hulk from Zenit St Petersburg for an Asian record fee of £46.1m in June and Eriksson, who also coached Guangzhou R&F in 2013/14 after his mutual departure from Leicester was followed by stints as technical director of Thai club BEC Tero Sasana and Dubai's Al-Nasr, pointed to his presence alongside the likes of January arrival Elkeson and Dario Conca as reasons to be content with his current forward line.
While the Swede claimed not to hold any current interest in Rooney, however, he did add that he could see him coming to China in the future and that "he is the type of player the league will be after". CSL clubs have flexed their financial muscles considerably this year, attempting to build a reputation as one of world football's strongest leagues by using big wages to tempt the likes of Alex Teixeira, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Gervinho, Ramires, Hulk, Jackson Martinez and Graziano Pelle to the Far East.
Rooney, once again a second-half substitute in Saturday's (29 October) goalless draw with Burnley after missing the 4-0 drubbing at Chelsea with a muscle injury, has also been linked with a potential switch to America's Major League Soccer. Ronald Koeman, meanwhile, recently reiterated his hope regarding a possible future return to boyhood club Everton.
"I don't know [if it is realistic]," he said after a 2-0 win over West Ham. "We can hope. Maybe it can happen in the future. I respect the decision of Man United, of the player, the manager and of the club. Rooney is still very welcome at Everton."