Chelsea’s pursuit of Wayne Rooney this summer has been as well-documented as it has been prolonged, and following a latest failed bid from the Blues, this transfer looks like arriving at a dead end, and fast.
While Manchester United continue to claim that they do not wish to sell one of their prize assets, the truth is more likely to be that they simply don’t want to sell him to potential title rivals.
Rooney’s malaise at United has been talked about for some time now, and the hierarchy at Old Trafford have rarely been the type to hold a player against their wish. But this time it’s different, knowing that allowing Mourinho – the man looking to wrestle the Premier League title from United just as he did eight years ago – to take Rooney off their hands represents a risk simply not worth taking, no matter what price on offer.
With the deal seemingly deadlocked, Mourinho has averted his gaze to another of his admired forwards. While a sensational return for Didier Drogba is thought to be some way wide of the mark, reports that he is casting a keen eye on his former Inter striker Samuel Eto’o could well ring true.
Eto’o was at the heart of Barcelona’s infamous battles with Mourinho’s Chelsea all those years ago, but the Portuguese boss showed he is not a man to hold a grudge by taking the Cameroon striker to the San Siro during his time as Inter Milan boss.
While there Eto’o played a crucial role in a four-man attacking pivot that proved so successful in the treble-winning season of 2009/10, including a Champions League win. With his versatility allowing him to play in the wide role or as hold up man in rotation with Diego Milito, he proved a crucial foil for the wizard at Inter’s heart, Wesley Sneijder.
And with Chelsea’s plethora of similarly creative midfield magicians, Mourinho could well envisage Eto’o doing a similarly effective job to allow the likes of Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar to thrive.
With Demba Ba and Fernando Torres seemingly out of favour, Romelu Lukaku has played the targetman role in pre-season so far, and the Belgian is likely to be given the nod to do the same against Hull on Sunday.
However Mourinho is fully aware that the 20-year-old has played only one full season in the Premier League, and could seek out Eto’o to share the burden while simultaneously acting as the perfect mentor for the man who spent last season on loan at West Brom.
Eto’o is currently in Russia with big-spending Anzhi Makhachakla, earning a reported £14m a year. But after two years in Dagestan, he is said to be ready to move and having yet to taste Premier League football, the 32-year-old could well be prepared to take a pay cut to be reunited with his former boss.