Earlier this week Portland Timbers owner Merritt Paulson told British newspaper Daily Mirror that Wayne Rooney would be a fine addition to Major League Soccer.
“I think he would be a great signing for MLS – 100 percent MLS would be attractive for him,” said Paulson.
Rooney is a perfect marquee. He is still a good player, but the reason he would be a great signing for Australia is his profile.
Alessandro Del Piero was obviously a better player and indisputably world-class. Yet Rooney brings more and not just because, even if he arrived when his contract ended in 2019, he would still only be 33, four years younger than the Italian was when he joined Sydney in 2012.
Del Piero may have been known and respected by all football fans, and plenty of casuals, but more people around the world know Rooney. His profile is wider after being one of the biggest stars for the biggest team in the biggest league in the world for over a decade.
In terms of global fame and popularity. Serie A lags far behind the Premier League and Juventus are a long way behind Manchester United, one of only three global mega-clubs.
Rooney would raise the profile of the A-League in Asia. There are pockets of passion for Serie A in Asia – Indonesia, for example, started watching Italian football in the 90s and there is still interest. But the Premier League is everywhere, as are Manchester United.
For years, fans around the continent have watched the league week in, week out. Rooney has been perhaps the most consistent face in that global soap opera.
And with Rooney, there is the added benefit of considerable interest from the United Kingdom in the biggest name the country has. There would be lots of stories on how England’s record goalscorer is settling in, as well as whatever else he chooses to get up to.
The Italian media may have been interested in Del Piero down under for a long time but the English media – for better or worse – is the most influential in the football world. Thanks to the ubiquity of the English language, fans around the planet engage with the English media more than any other.
So do international journalists. In countries like China they spend all their time scouring the English media. For many countries, much of the news about Italian or Spanish football often comes via England. This is partly why there has been a greater drive of late from Germany and Spain to get more English content out there.
Rooney is far from the best player in the world, but there are not many players who would bring the kind of consistent publicity that Rooney is capable of. In this field, at least, he would outperform Del Piero.
Getting him to Australia would admittedly not be easy. His contract at United ends in 2019 and when he leaves Old Trafford, he likely leaves Europe. Nobody there is going to come close to matching his current salary but there will be offers from China and the MLS.
It is likely that he would prefer an English-speaking country. In terms of money, Aussie teams are going to struggle to match what China and MLS can offer even with the marquee fund, but there are other ways to attract a superstar.
One involves talking to Manchester United and the player sooner rather than later. A-League clubs could offer to allow Rooney to become an ambassador for Manchester United in Australia and Asia as a whole, a role that Park Ji-sung plays now he is retired. He is paid around $250,000 a year for not doing an awful lot.
But for a bigger name still actively playing, it could be that the English club would be prepared to pay Rooney handsomely to promote the Red Devils on the other side of the world.
That becomes a lot more attractive for United if Rooney loses his first team spot before 2019, which is certainly possible. Then the club may well be open to a loan deal in which they cover a substantial part of his salary.
It would still save Manchester United money and be excellent marketing at the same time. It would also make Rooney affordable down under.
A little imagination and a lot of hard talking and who knows? Rooney and the A-League could be a perfect match.
© 2016 The Roar | This article was written by John Duerden and first appeared on the Roar website on 25 August 2016