Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney is open to a summer return to boyhood club Everton, Goal understands.
Rooney has accepted that his time at Old Trafford is coming to an end and United are unlikely to stand in his way should a suitable offer arrive at the end of the season.
It has emerged that United knocked back Everton’s attempts to sign Rooney on loan during the January transfer window, insisting he still had a role to play in the coming months.
But Jose Mourinho’s casual approach to the idea of Rooney moving to China last month made it clear to the England striker that his long-term future lies away from Old Trafford.
Several big-spending Chinese clubs had shown an interest in signing the 31-year-old in recent weeks and are likely to try again in the summer, while Major League Soccer has long been mooted as a possible destination, but sources close to the striker have indicated that he would not rule out an emotional return to Goodison Park.
The opportunity to stay in the north west of England is thought to provide just as much incentive when it comes to deciding his future as any financial considerations.
While Rooney could expect to earn more than his current weekly wage of around £300,000 per week, including bonuses, if he were to move to China, he would have to take a considerable pay cut in the event of a return to Goodison Park.
Even with Rooney thought to be open to accepting a lower wage packet, Everton would still need to establish whether they can offer their former star a big-money contract.
Romelu Lukaku is still in talks over a deal which would make him the highest-paid player in the club’s history on more than £100,000 per week, though his agent, Mino Raiola, has previously made no secret of his desire to move the Belgian to one of Europe’s biggest clubs.
The picture will become clearer as summer approaches but Everton manager Ronald Koeman and director of football Steve Walsh have already indicated that they would be willing to strike a deal for Rooney.
"If the opportunity arose for him to come back, and it sat right with everybody, then it's something we’d look at,” Walsh said this week. “He's a class apart.
"All the things said about him are true and I think he’s one of England’s greatest ever players, so why would he not be of interest to us?"
Koeman has also hinted at the possibility, saying: "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.
"It's all about what the player 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."