Everton have launched an unabashed charm offensive to lure Wayne Rooney back to Goodison Park, with manager Ronald Koeman insisting the England striker can play at the top level for three more years.
Rooney looks increasingly likely to leave Manchester United in the summer, 13 years after his £26m arrival, having seen his role diminish markedly under manager Jose Mourinho.
The 31-year-old has so far resisted overtures from China, where he could expect to earn more than £25m a year, but he is expected to reassess his options at the end of the season.
Everton, who signed Rooney aged nine and gave him a first-team debut at 16, have now made clear that he has an option should he want to remain in the Premier League.
“I believe that Wayne Rooney is still playing at a high level,” said Koeman.
“I think he made a good choice to stay at Manchester United and in the Premier League because he has still two or three years in front of him to play on a high level.
“What will happen at the end of the season? I don’t know but in my opinion he is one of the players who can make Everton stronger.
“It’s all about what the player likes, what Manchester United needs to do, and we are not involved in that project. But every player that we think can make the team stronger is welcome to Everton.”
Salary demands pose a potential problem in Everton’s pursuit of Rooney, who earns up to £300,000 per week at United and is said to have been offered more than £500,000 a week by Chinese Super League sides.
The Toffees have positioned themselves as a more ambitious club since Iranian billionaire Farhad Moshiri’s investment last year, however, and may be the best of Rooney’s options should he stay in England.
Rooney has scored just five goals from 33 appearances in an injury-hampered campaign – the worst return of his career – but Everton director of football Steve Walsh remains convinced of his class.
“Wayne Rooney is one of the greatest players that has ever played the game in England and for us not to be interested would be wrong,” said Walsh.
“He is a class apart, he sees things, and he comes into that category of being one of England's greatest ever players, so why wouldn't we be interested?
“I think the whole thing would be euphoric. I think we could sell a lot of shirts, that’s for sure.
"But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Wayne is contracted to Manchester United and made a decision to continue to play for them. Let’s wait and see what happens in the future.”