By Williams ‘Bantu’ Irubor
Wayne Rooney’s agent Paul Stretford is in China to see if he can negotiate a deal for the forward to leave Manchester United.
There are no guarantees of success and it is thought a deal remains highly unlikely before the Chinese transfer window closes on 28 February.
But the fact Stretford has travelled to China is a clear indication United boss Jose Mourinho would let Rooney, 31, go.
And if he does not leave this month it seems certain he will go in the summer.
Rooney has fallen down the pecking order at United under Mourinho.
The England captain has been made aware of interest in him from the Chinese Super League for some time, although it is not known which clubs Stretford has spoken to.
Beijing Guoan, believed to be the favourite team of Chinese President Xi, had been seen as one of the favourites to sign Rooney but sources close to the club have told BBC Sport they are not interested in signing him.
Because of new restrictions on overseas players, Jiangsu Suning and Tianjin Quanjian look like the most likely remaining options.
However, the England captain’s representatives have already spoken to Tianjin Quanjian and their coach, Fabio Cannavaro, said talks did not progress.
On Tuesday, Mourinho said he did not know whether Rooney, who has only just returned to training after a hamstring injury, would still be at Old Trafford in a week’s time.
It is not known whether this latest development will affect Rooney’s chances of being involved in Sunday’s EFL Cup final against Southampton.
They had appeared to have increased after Henrikh Mkhitaryan limped out of Wednesday’s 1-0 Europa League win against Saint-Etienne.
If Rooney follows former team-mate Carlos Tevez to the Chinese Super League, it would almost certainly cost him any chance of making the seven appearances he needs to become England’s most capped player.
Rooney’s preference is understood to be to remain with United for the rest of his contract, which expires in 2019, but a lack of time on the pitch is forcing him to consider alternatives.
Rooney is United’s record goalscorer and has won five Premier League titles and a Champions League trophy since joining them as an 18-year-old for £27m from Everton in 2004.
The forward, who has started only three games since 17 December, has said he would not play for an English club other than United or Everton.