As ever, welcome to this latest issue of The Saint. Across the sports section in this our 181st issue a wide number of disciplines from across the Athletic Union are showcased; from the cartridge of the clay pigeon shooting club to the clenched fist of their counterparts in boxing once again we have it covered.
I’d in particular like to pass on my heartiest congratulations to the 1st XV from the men’s rugby club who have enjoyed wonderful success this season in winning their BUCS league while at the same time going unbeaten throughout the season. That in itself is a tremendously impressive feat and one worthy of celebrating, as I’m sure the team did in their own unique way. The women’s team also won very strongly against Stirling, making it a fine week for rugby teams from across the university.
I’d like to talk about money. In a rich man’s world it is what makes it go round. Enough of the musical hints. In recent weeks Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney has signed a deal, which if you believe the talk in newspapers, is worth in the region of £300,000 a week. Indeed, a bamboozling amount of money. In Wayne’s world, the boy has certainly done good to borrow that most cherished of football cliches.
When AC Milan signed Gianluigi Lentini in 1992 from Torino for a then eye watering fee of £13 million Pope John Paul II described the fee as immoral. Indeed, some of the unkinder calcio commentators did suggest that Lentini’s poor performances in the red and black – a result of injuries he suffered in a car crash – were evidence of divine anger at Milan’s somewhat scatter cash approach to the transfer market. Now there are more immoral, scandalous and obscene things in British society – phone hacking and the recent dreadful revelations of what happened at the BBC for example – than the wages being paid to a footballer, however United’s recent decision to reward Rooney so generously does require a fair amount of scrutiny on a footballing and financial level.
I am not one to criticise rewarding a superb talent. Rooney is a special player, of that there is no doubt. I do not want to engage in the trite debate that soldiers or doctors should be paid as much as footballers. Yet, is £300,000 a week (or near enough £90 a minute as Dan Walker pointed out on the BBC’s Football Focus a couple of weeks ago) really justified for a man who has a pretty relaxed “job”? United and England supporters who have been gratified by his performances may agree, however I am somewhat bewildered by it.
The Crystal Palace supporters who were lobbing Rooney with coins at the recent tie at Selhurst Park perhaps missed the irony in bombarding the man who has no need for supplementary stipends with shiny golden nuggets. Awfully generous of the South Londoners however. Particularly generous given the price of match tickets which have been a bone of contention this season amongst supporters of the Eagles.
Manchester United as a club must also be wondering whether such expenditure on Rooney is really worth it. For many years Rooney was England’s great white hope. Has he lived up to such potential? Well, he’s certainly not a Ronaldo or a Messi but he does have a star quality. He has provided a service to Manchester United since he signed almost a decade
ago ; decisive goals, game changing performances and other contributions have been part of Rooney’s story in the red of England’s record champions. One could argue that they are merely rewarding a man who could, if he sees out his contract, have made more appearances for the Red Devils than such legends as Bryan Robson and one of United’s “Holy Trinity”, the quasi mythical George Best.
The club are also going through an uncertain period in their history. They’re going to need to keep their biggest stars happy and perhaps making Rooney a very rich man is one way to maintain United’s lustre. Indeed, one suspects that a trio of Rooney, Van Persie and Mata is going to make United a more attractive proposal for potential targets than Cleverley, Carrick and Nani.
All footballers are burdened by the fact that they are indeed rapidly depreciating assets and perhaps United have acted rashly in rewarding a 29 year old in such a hefty way. The deal of course makes the assumption that Rooney will still be as effective at the age of 33, which now seems to be the time in a star’s career when the green dollar lined pastures of the MLS prove irresistible. One hopes for the club’s sake that Rooney’s knees or ankles hold firm and allow him to pay back his employers.
Or is this merely yet another sign of football’s attempt to take over the world which is detached from reality? Some supporters with longer memories will recall the week in 2010 when Rooney seemed to be proffering himself to the highest bidder, namely the noisy neighbours on the other side of the city.
The simple question, as L’Oreal ask in their adverts is this: Is he worth it? This, as with many things, is a matter for interpretation. Enjoy the issue.