Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho has indicated an interest in signing Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney if the player cannot be persuaded to stay at Old Trafford.
United manager Sir Alex Ferguson confirmed in an astonishing statement yesterday that Rooney's representatives had told United chief executive David Gill on August 14 that the player wanted to leave.
The timing of that announcement from Rooney's camp rules out the possibility that the reason for Rooney seeking a move had anything to do with any unhappiness over the handling of an ankle injury he suffered last month, and Ferguson confirmed the deal United were prepared to offer the player was "the best contract any player could have".
Gill and Ferguson have both stressed to Rooney that the opportunity to resume talks still exists, and though Real are one of the few clubs with the financial muscle to sign Rooney, their coach Mourinho still expects the player to remain at Old Trafford.
However if the club are forced to sell, the Portuguese insisted Real would be among a number of interested parties.
Mourinho said: "He will stay. He probably wants to leave for some reason but I believe he belongs to Man United, he belongs to Man United fans, he belongs to Old Trafford. I believe he is going to stay.
"But if at the end of the day Man United decide that he is to leave, then give me a call."