Jose Mourinho declared Wayne Rooney his only major transfer target of the summer as a row erupted spectacularly between Manchester United and Chelsea.
Less than 24 hours after sources close to Rooney revealed the ‘angry and confused’ striker was ready to submit a written transfer request because manager David Moyes had suggested the 27-year-old would not be his first-choice forward, Chelsea put in an official offer of around £22million.
It was rejected by United but Chelsea will now return with an improved bid of £25m — plus £3m in add-ons — and may even go as high as £30m to get their man.
The opening offer was revealed by MailOnline and, while Chelsea denied it was a cash-plus-player deal with the makeweights being Juan Mata or David Luiz, they did confirm a bid had been lodged.
On a dramatic day, United rejected the offer and told Chelsea not to return with an improved bid because Rooney is not for sale.
Chelsea then took the extraordinary step of accusing the Barclays Premier League champions of leaking details of the original offer.
A statement from Stamford Bridge read: ‘Chelsea FC can confirm that yesterday it made a written offer to Manchester United for the transfer of Wayne Rooney.
‘Although the terms of the offer are confidential, for avoidance of doubt and contrary to what is apparently being briefed to the Press in Sydney, the proposed purchase price does not include the transfer or loan of any players from Chelsea to Manchester United.’
United, of course, are currently on tour in Sydney.
After watching his Chelsea side beat Singha All Stars 1-0 in Bangkok, Mourinho confirmed the saga is far from over. There will be an improved bid for Rooney, as early as today, and further offers should they be necessary.
Chelsea are even prepared to do business after they play United in Moyes’s first Barclays Premier League game at Old Trafford on August 26, not least to spare Rooney the potential embarrassment of walking out to play his former club in a Chelsea shirt.
Asked whether his club were pursuing other targets, Mourinho was emphatic. ‘No, and we won’t,’ he said. Asked if it was Rooney or bust, Mourinho replied: ‘Yes.’
Arsenal have also expressed a desire to sign Rooney and Arsene Wenger, with his side in Vietnam, made it clear the England star’s £250,000-a-week wage demands were no longer beyond the North Londoners.
‘We do not have any problem with the wages of Wayne Rooney,’ said Wenger. ‘But it’s very difficult for us to talk about any specific case.
‘Do I get the sense United would be unwise or unwilling to sell to a Premier League rival? It happened to us. It can happen to them. Rooney is under contract. He has two years to go. It’s United who make a decision.’
United are indeed reluctant to sell to an English club but Mourinho is undeterred.
‘The situation is clear because nothing is secret any more,’ said Mourinho after winning the first game since his return from Real Madrid.
‘Chelsea are interested in the player. Chelsea made an official bid. What we did, we did officially between our club and Man United and there is nothing else to say. We want the player. We are interested in the player. We made the bid. You have to respect, of course, Man United and you have to be ethical in this process.
‘So, from now, I don’t say one more word about Wayne Rooney because you all know we want him, and not one more word about this situation. We made a bid and now it’s up to Man United.
‘The official bid is about a certain amount of money and does not involve players. There are none involved in the deal. We made an economic bid of a certain amount. Now they accept or not. Not Juan Mata, not David Luiz.
‘We did what we had to do in a proper way and we’re happy with our behaviour. It was clean. Now I keep working with my players, trying to improve my players, and we’ll see what happens.’
Rooney was at United’s training ground yesterday, working on the underwater treadmill in a bid to hasten his recovery from the hamstring injury that forced him to return home from the Far East.
On Wednesday night United chief executive Ed Woodward was also en route to Europe, albeit to Spain to open negotiations about the transfer of Barcelona’s Cesc Fabregas. It is understood his trip home is nothing to do with the Rooney saga.
But Chelsea’s haste in acting on the revelation that the disenchanted Rooney was ready to follow the verbal request he made to leave — to Sir Alex Ferguson at the end of last season — with a written one has succeeded only in hardening United’s resolve to keep him.
The timing of Chelsea’s bid certainly seemed crude. United believe the two events are connected.