By Neil Robinson
LONDON (Reuters) – Manchester United’s former England soccer captain Wayne Rooney on Sunday rejoined his boyhood club Everton on a two-year deal after 13 trophy-laden years at Old Trafford.
The 31-year-old, who has moved to Goodison Park for an undisclosed fee, spoke of his excitement at returning to a club where he began his career after coming through the youth ranks.
“(Winning trophies with Everton) would be the pinnacle,” Rooney said. “I really feel now the club is moving in the right direction, bringing the right caliber of players in. I want to be part of it and hopefully part of a successful Everton team.
“It’s a great feeling to be back. I’m excited, I cannot wait to meet the lads, get on the training pitch and then get on the pitch to play. I’m ecstatic – I just cannot wait to get back playing.”
Rooney exploded on to the Premier League scene when he netted a stunning winner for Everton against Arsenal aged 16 and he moved to United two years later for a fee reported by British media to be 25 million pounds ($32.23 million).
Scoring a hat-trick on his United debut against Fenerbahce in the Champions League, Rooney went on to play more than 550 games for the club, netting 253 goals to become their all-time leading scorer, eclipsing the great Bobby Charlton’s record.
Rooney’s England debut came under Swede Sven-Goran Eriksson, aged 17, and he became the country’s all-time top scorer with 53 goals and the most capped outfield player with 119 appearances.
At United he won the Champions League, five Premier League titles and the FA Cup and was Footballer of the Year in 2010.
But last season he cut a disconsolate figure at times when he was no longer an automatic selection under manager Jose Mourinho and lost his place in the England squad.
“It is no secret that I have long been an admirer of Wayne,” Mourinho said on United’s website (www.manutd.com). “He has been a model professional throughout his time at the club and will remain in the history books for many years to come.
“It is never easy to see a great player playing less football than he would like and I could not stand in his way when he asked to go back to Everton.”
Everton manager Ronald Koeman believes Rooney can make a real contribution to the Merseyside club next season.
“He loves Everton and he was desperate to come back,” said the Dutchman. “He is still only 31 and I don’t have any doubts about his qualities. It’s fantastic he’s here.”
With a fee agreed between Everton and United for Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku to move in the opposite direction, the way was clear for Rooney to leave Old Trafford after 13 years.
Rooney made 77 appearances for Everton and scored 17 goals between 2002 and 2004 when he left to join United.
When the striker appeared at the Everton training-ground on Saturday for a medical, Blues supporters soon arrived to welcome back a player who first joined the club aged nine.
Rooney is reported to be taking a large pay cut to return to Everton, who have been recruiting heavily under Koeman and financial backer Farhad Moshiri, a British-Iranian businessman, after finishing seventh in the league last season.
They have bought young England players goalkeeper Jordan Pickford from Sunderland and Burnley central defender Michael Keane plus Netherlands midfielder Davy Klaasen from Ajax Amsterdam among others, spending almost 90 million pounds.
(Reporting by Steve Tongue and Neil Robinson in London; editing by Ken Ferris and Ed Osmond)