By Wayne Veysey
Wayne Rooney will give serious consideration to a move to Arsenal this summer if they can match his salary demands.
England’s talisman is ready to sever his ties with Manchester United as he sets his sights on a new club next season.
Chelsea, Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain are among the big-spending continental outfits who are closely monitoring Rooney’s situation but Arsenal, armed with the biggest transfer kitty in the club’s history, are regarded by insiders to be serious contenders to land the forward.
Arsene Wenger has since gone public with his interest and outlined the challenge new United manager David Moyes has in “bridging the gap” with Rooney after successfully suing him for libel in 2008.
Goal has learned that Rooney’s camp have given informal indications to Arsenal that the player would be interested in a shock summer switch to the north Londoners.
He is believed to be keen on being the marquee player in the team once again after seeing his status downgraded at Old Trafford last season, while the opportunity for a fresh challenge at an established Champions League club and playing alongside fellow England internationals Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is also said to appeal to Rooney.
However, Arsenal will have to make Rooney the best-paid player in the club’s history to entice him to Emirates Stadium.
He has two years remaining on a United contract worth up to €240,000-a-week and will not accept a drop in salary.
Arsenal have employed a tight wage structure in recent years, with their current top earner Theo Walcott on €105,000-a-week.
However, the cash-rich north Londoners will be armed with a kitty of up to €117 million this summer and have also recently secured lucrative new sponsorship and kit manufacturing contracts with Emirates and Puma that will give Wenger more money to spend on transfers and salaries than ever before.
The Gunners paid Thierry Henry the equivalent of €234,000-a-week in 2006-07, the final season of his first spell at the club, and also upped Cesc Fabregas’ wages to €130,000-a-week to keep him at Arsenal in 2009 following sustained interest from Barcelona.
Arsenal are preparing to put together a package that, including performance-related bonuses, image rights and signing-on fee, will match his current United deal.
Wenger, who is close to making Swansea City’s Ashley Williams his first major signing of the summer and has also made a formal move for QPR goalkeeper Julio Cesar, wants to make a statement of intent this summer by signing a world-class forward.
Arsenal’s move for Fiorentina striker Stevan Jovetic has stalled as the Serie A club hold out for a €28.5m fee, while the likes of Edin Dzeko and Bayern Munich-bound Robert Lewandowski have also been firm targets.
But Wenger is believed to be increasingly hopeful of being in a position to entice Rooney from United.
Speaking in an interview with Al-Jazeera that was screened on Monday, the Frenchman said: “Rooney could be an interesting player for everyone in the world. Who would turn him down? The challenge Moyes faces with him – the first challenge - is to go into Manchester and bridge the gap between him and Rooney.
"Is that feasible or not? That depends on the personality. Does Rooney bear a grudge or not? We will see that. You face all these challenges as a manager. It will be interesting to see how that will be handled.”
Contrary to reports that Rooney’s relationship with Sir Alex Ferguson is central to his desire to quit the club he joined in 2004, sources have told Goal that the striker is unwilling to work under former boss Moyes, who was his first manager in professional football.
Publicly, the new Premier League champions have insisted Rooney is “not for sale” but they could be hemmed into a corner if he pushes hard for a transfer as his current transfer value will quickly depreciate once he enters the final 24 months of his contract without extending it.