Periodically friends will accuse me of being “pure evil.” I cherish these moments, and am proud of the fact that my mind goes where no demented mind has gone before. But it can be something of a plague, because there’s this part of me that thinks if I’m that sinister, other people must be, too. This quality has not rendered me the most trusting of people, I fear.
Anyhow, if you follow football (not throwball, but football of the global variety, or “soccer,” as you Yanks insist on calling it), you know that one of the protracted dramas of the summer transfer season was Chelsea FC’s pursuit of Manchester United’s star forward, Wayne Rooney (aka “Shrek”). The Blues needed a proven presence up top, and Rooney was disenchanted both with ManUre in general and with incoming manager David Moyes in particular. Shrek played for Moyes back when he was at Everton, and apparently is not fond of the man.
Rooney made clear that he wanted out, Moyes and the club made clear that he wasn’t for sale, and along the way the manager uttered some words in a presser that he insists were taken out of context, but that nonetheless were interpreted by the English football press as indicating that Rooney was to MU’s plans as horse droppings are to work shoes.
And the game was afoot.
Of course, in the end, when nothing was really moving, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho put it out there that in order for the deal to get done Rooney needed to step up and put in a formal transfer request to force United’s hand. Rooney didn’t, and CFC wound up with Plan B, Cameroon’s is-he-over-the-hill-or-not striker Samuel Eto’o instead. For American football fans who are having a hard time following the implications here, this is kinda like you were hoping to land Drew Brees and wound up with Donovan McNabb.
All summer I wondered aloud whether Mourinho, a consummate mind-gamer, actually wanted Rooney or if he was simply fucking with Moyes’s head. Or a bit of both.
Tonight I found myself in pure evil mode, wondering the very opposite: what if it was Mou being played like a four-Euro banjo?
Here’s the scenario. Moyes takes over at MU from Everton. He’s been around the block and knows that Mourinho, taking the helm at Chelsea, is a) in dire need of a new top-tier striker, and b) as noted above, a world-class agitator. So he goes to Rooney and says a) you’re critical to my plans and I want you here no matter what, and b) let’s fuck over Mourinho. Shrek says … well, he probably asks if Moyes’s grandmother is dating anyone at the moment, but that’s another post for another day.
So Rooney suggests, within earshot of a reporter, that he is not entirely enchanted with the idea of playing for Moyes, whom he considers to be a sheep-shagger of the first order. Mourinho sees an opening and dives in.
And the summer-long drama unfolds, with Roo sending out regular come-get-me signals and Chelsea making increasingly lavish offers for his services. United has a bit of sport with the whole thing, not only rejecting the various offers but at one point demanding not only outrageous sums of money, but also Chelsea’s best players in return. (Yes, you can have Brees. For Peyton Manning, Von Miller and three #1 picks.)
Meanwhile, Chelsea swallows the hook and goes all-in. Instead of hedging their bets by lining up a deal for another top-flight striker, should the Shrek deal tank on them, they convince themselves that it’s as good as done and forego the groundwork necessary to land a respectable Plan B.
In the end, Rooney wusses out and decides to stay, leaving Mourinho standing in the rain holding his nutsack (aka Eto’o, who was hell on two legs four years ago but after pissing away the last couple of years in Siberia is, ummm, on the back nine of his career).
That’s the conspiracy theory.
Now, let’s be clear – I have zero evidence that this is what happened. As I said before, I’m occasionally just evil enough to pull some shit like this and it makes me paranoid that others might be, too.
So, you’re wondering: is there reason to believe that this isn’t at all what happened? Yes. A couple things leap to mind.
First, the timing. If you were going to pull this, you’d wait until the last possible second to pull out, making sure that your trollee had no time at all to react. That isn’t what happened. It became clear a few days before the transfer window closed that Rooney wasn’t going to go through with it, and had Chelsea not had all its eggs in that basket they might have been able to get in for a suitable alternative.
Second, there was the whole Ander Herrera debacle, where the Yes Men apparently showed up at Athletic Bilbao to “negotiate” on United’s behalf. You can’t possibly think the people behind one of the sport’s greatest Keystone Kops episodes was also evil genius enough to shank the Special One.
Verdict: probably not. Still, it’s never a bad thing to remind yourself that there are scheming, evil motherfuckers out there looking to screw you to the wall. Assume that they’re at least as smart as you are and plan accordingly.
Meanwhile, Mourinho has to figure out how to turn the combination of Fernando Torres, Eto’o and Demba Ba into something resembling a real strike force. Whether he got played by Moyes or he played himself, he’s now got his work cut out for him.