By Wayne Veysey
Wayne Rooney held secret meetings with two clubs in the same day as he lays the foundations for his Manchester United exit.
England's talisman is understood to have met with a Premier League outfit on one morning in June before flying overseas for talks with a continental big-hitter in the afternoon.
Mystery surrounds the precise identities of the two clubs but it is believed that Rooney himself was present in the top-level talks, along with his representatives, following his return from turning out for England in Brazil on Sunday.
The 27-year-old is ready to sever his ties with United as he sets his sights on a new club next season.
Chelsea, Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain and Monaco are among the mega-spenders who are closely monitoring Rooney's situation, while Arsenal, armed with the biggest transfer kitty in the club's history, are also regarded by insiders to be serious contenders to land the forward.
Arsene Wenger has gone public with his interest in Rooney and outlined the challenge that new United manager David Moyes has in "bridging the gap" with the striker after successfully suing him for libel in 2008.
Rooney's camp have given informal indications to Arsenal that the player would be interested in a shock summer switch to the north Londoners.
Furthermore, chief executive Ivan Gazidis explained in a wide-ranging interview that the Gunners now possess the financial muscle to compete for the world's elite players. Asked if Arsenal were now potentially in a position to pay a €29 million transfer fee and wages of €230,000 a week for one player, Gazidis declared: "Of course we could do that. We could do more than that."
Rooney has two years remaining on a United contract worth up to €295,000-a-week and will not accept a drop in salary.
PSG and Monaco, the nouveau-riche French clubs, have the spending power to match and even exceed Rooney's United package, although this might not be enough to persuade the England star to swap the Premier League for Ligue 1.
Real Madrid are in the market for at least one A-list front man as they prepare to offload Gonzalo Higuain, although Rooney has not been strongly linked with the Spanish giants.
Chelsea have also registered an interest in United's most high-profile player after learning of his availability, but the Londoners' priority is to capture a spearhead rather than a No.10. After losing out to Monaco on Radamel Falcao, Chelsea have turned their attention to Napoli's Edinson Cavani, while Fiorentina's Stevan Jovetic is also on their striker shortlist.
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, and is "hell bent" on leaving.
Publicly, the new Premier League champions have insisted that Rooney is "not for sale" but they could be hemmed into a corner if he pushes hard for a move as his current transfer value will quickly depreciate once he enters the final 24 months of his contract.
He is believed to be keen on being a team's marquee player 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 is also said to appeal to Rooney.
Follow Wayne Veysey on