Everton's English forward Wayne Rooney, the target of bids from Manchester United and Newcastle, requested a transfer from his Premier League team, the club said in a statement on its Web site yesterday.
"This has been one of the hardest decisions of my life but I feel the time is now right to move forward," Rooney said in the statement. "The Euros were a fantastic experience, it made me realize I could play at the highest level," he said, referring to this year's European championship in Portugal.
United and Newcastle are vying to sign the 18-year-old, who was the second-top scorer at Euro 2004 with four goals. Former Old Trafford goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel told the British Broadcasting Corp. that Rooney may have the same effect on the club as Eric Cantona, who in 1993 helped United to its first league title in 26 years after joining from Leeds.
Everton yesterday rejected offers of $36 million from United and $45 million from Newcastle. United is preparing an increased bid of approximately $48 million pounds plus forward David Bellion in exchange, the Sun reported yesterday.
United lost its Premiership title last season and matched its lowest league position in the 12-year history of the league as it finished third. It signed striker Alan Smith and defender Gabriel Heinze since the last campaign for a total of $28.8 million, about a sixth of Chelsea's outlay on players.
"We would like to have the boy," United Manager Alex Ferguson told United's Web site this week. "He's an emerging talent and he has got a great chance."
Newcastle, which is only in the second-tier UEFA Cup rather than the Champions League after finishing fifth in the Premiership last season, has money to spend following the sale of defender Jonathan Woodgate to Real Madrid for $30 million.
"Newcastle selling Woodgate sparked this off," Everton Manager David Moyes told Sky Sports. "Wayne wants to play in Europe but I think remaining at Everton would be best for his development."
Rooney, who did not accept Everton's offer last month of a new five-year contract, held talks with Moyes yesterday morning before submitting a written request to leave the club he's supported as a fan. Moyes said Everton has yet to accept Rooney's request.
Rooney established himself at international level during the European championship, with two-goal tallies in group matches against Switzerland and Croatia before suffering a broken foot in the quarterfinal against Portugal. He has scored nine goals in 16 international appearances since his debut against Australia in February 2003.
He struck nine goals for Everton last season to take his total to 17 in 77 games for the club. Rooney made his Everton debut as a 16-year-old and got his first Premiership goal against Arsenal with a curling 25-yard strike to end the Gunners' 30-match unbeaten league run.
"I hope the Everton fans can come to understand my decision, and I hope the transfer fee Everton receive will help the club move forward," Rooney said.
Everton, which had been struggling with debt of as much as 40 million pounds according to the BBC, yesterday said it secured funding to strengthen its squad before Tuesday's transfer deadline. It did not disclose the amount or its source.
It is set to bolster its defense with the signing of French defender Djimi Traore, 24, after agreeing to a fee of $7 million with city rival Liverpool, Everton said on its Web site.
Traore, a signing of just under $1 million from Laval in 1999, will become the first player to leave Liverpool for Everton since Gary Ablett in 1992 if the transfer is completed.