Manchester United face a battle to keep Wayne Rooney away from a bank-busting move to China. Backed by billions from businessmen seeking political influence through football, the success-hungry Chinese are prepared to splash out fortunes on young superstars rather than ageing ones.

That's why Rooney, other up-and-coming Premier League stars - and even Barcelona star Lionel Messi - are now being targeted as potential big money recruits who can expect to be paid even more than the £220,000 a week Chelsea legend Didier Drogba is reported to be banking from his new club, Shanghai Shenhua.

"They are not prepared to accept Europe's cast-offs any more. They want the likes of Rooney, Sergio Aguero and Bastien Schweinsteiger," Professor Simon Chadwick, head of the business strategy faculty at Coventry University, told the Sunday Express.

"Players like them would be much more significant - and then the floodgates really will open."