Wayne Rooney insists the opportunity to work under Phillip Cocu was one he couldn’t turn down, after confirming his return to English football with Derby County.
Manchester United and England’s record goalscorer has agreed an 18-month contract as player-coach at Pride Park, and will join in January.
Rooney, 33, flew into the UK on Tuesday morning to finalise a deal to return, cutting short his MLS sojourn with DC United.
Derby owner Mel Morris has struck a “record-breaking sponsorship deal” with betting company 32Red on the back of Rooney’s signing – it is no coincidence Rooney will wear the No.32 shirt when he arrives.
Speaking at his press conference unveiling on Tuesday afternoon, Rooney insisted that, first and foremost, he comes back as a player looking to return the Rams to the Premier League.
“My agent spoke to the club and the owners here,” the former England skipper said. “I had a decision to make and the decision to come and play here in England and develop as a coach with Phillip Cocu was too good to turn down.
“I’m looking forward to coming here in January and helping them towards promotion.
“Firstly, I’m a player and feel I have a lot of quality to bring to the squad. Secondly I want to learn from Phillip and his staff to gain experience for when I take the next step.”
Derby were victorious in their Championship opener on Monday night, a Tom Lawrence double beating Huddersfield Town.
But Rooney revealed he has spoken to Cocu ahead of the fixture, and that the conversation with the ex-PSV Eindhoven boss had persuaded him to seal a deal in the East Midlands.
“Once the opportunity was there and I had a decision to make I spoke with Phillip [Cocu] on the phone to see what the feeling was from him.
“After the call, I was happy with the situation and wanted to come here.
“We’ve been trying to keep it quiet so I haven’t spoken to many people about it.”
And Rooney insists it wasn’t just about coming back to the UK – the opportunity had to be right.
“We’ve got four young boys and certainly for my oldest it is a crucial time in his schooling. The opportunity to come back here and play and take the next transition in my career was one of the factors.
“It wasn’t just about coming home.”
Rams boss Phillip Cocu insists Rooney’s credentials “speak for themselves”.
“Wayne Rooney is an extremely talented and top-class footballer.
“It is an exciting prospect for him to be joining Derby County and he can bring so much to this squad, both on and off the pitch,” said the Dutchman.
“He has enjoyed a wonderful career, both in club football and for England, and he still has so much to give as well.
“His credentials speak for themselves, but to have a player with his leadership, skill, experience, character and work ethic will be huge for us.
“He knows what it takes to succeed as a player and I have no doubt he will have a positive impact right across the club. The inspiration and motivation this can generate is massive for all of our players from the first team right through to the youngsters in the Academy.
“It is entirely in keeping with, and in support of, the club’s philosophy and approach.
“I am looking forward to working with Wayne from the start of next year and welcoming him to the club.
“It’s a great signing for the club and the team. His experience is a big asset for the club and we have a lot of youngsters coming up who he can help.
“We can help him with his future role so I think it is a perfect moment for us to join together.”
Cocu also added: “Wayne is a star player who has had a great career. It’s not just the quality of player we’re getting but also his experience.
“The whole team will benefit from him being here. We’re lucky to have him.”
Rooney will continued in the US capital until the end of the MLS season, with DC United currently battling to secure a spot in the playoffs.
Rooney added: “It’s only fair for me to finish the MLS season. They’ve been good to me and we are in a fantastic position in the league.
“I feel like it would be disrespectful not to finish the season and help them get in the play-offs and hopefully win a trophy.”