MANCHESTER, England - Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has denied his club made an approach for Wayne Rooney and echoed Real Madrid counterpart Jose Mourinho's belief that the unsettled striker will stay put at Manchester United.
As speculation mounted as to who among Europe's heavyweight sides would launch a bid for the England international, Mancini insisted Wednesday that City had not been in contact with Rooney and appeared to rule out any attempt to sign the player in the January transfer window.
"We must think about our season and our players -- that's what's important at this moment. In the summer, if there is a good player that could change something for us, we can talk about this," Mancini said.
"Rooney is a great player but I think he'll stay at United. He's an important player for United."
Mourinho said he also feels Rooney, who has stunned United manager Sir Alex Ferguson by saying he does not want to extend his contract beyond 2012, would end up remaining at Old Trafford.
"I believe he belongs to Man United, he belongs to Man United fans, he belongs to Old Trafford. I believe he is going to stay," the Madrid coach said on Tuesday after his side's Champions League victory over AC Milan.
City and Madrid are two of the teams heavily linked to speculation about Rooney, with Chelsea and Barcelona widely viewed as the other clubs who could match Rooney's reportedly exorbitant wage demands.
City is owned by Abu Dhabi billionaire Sheikh Mansour, who has spent more than 300 million pounds (C$487 million) on players since taking over the club in 2008.
The long list of expensive signings includes Carlos Tevez, who left United in 2009 after his contract ran out to join City. Tevez had a season earlier teamed up with Rooney to win the Champions League with United in 2008.
Mancini was uneasy about commenting on a potential bid for Rooney, whose transfer value is set to plummet if he is not sold by United in January.
"He is a United player. It's not correct to speak about that situation. I have respect for him, for Ferguson, for United. I want to speak only about my players," Mancini said.
"It's not my problem. I'm City manager and I have a lot of problems with my own players."
If Rooney was to favour a move to Madrid, he would link up again with Cristiano Ronaldo, who struck up a superb partnership with the England striker at Old Trafford before leaving for the Spanish giants for 80 million pounds in June 2009.
Mourinho was more forthcoming than Mancini, saying: "If at the end of the day Man United decide that he is to leave, then give me a call."
Chelsea was the first European power to remark on Rooney, its manager Carlo Ancelotti saying on Monday that his club would be keen to move for Rooney if the striker was on the market.
Spanish champion and three-time European Cup winner Barcelona was also widely reported as a potential bidder for Rooney.
"He is one of the greatest players in the world as there are very few players with his qualities," Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola was quoted as telling The Sun newspaper. "He's a player I very much admire."
Sections of the British press said on Wednesday that money was the key factor behind Rooney's decision to walk away from United, despite Ferguson's claim that the club was willing to offer "the best terms possible for any player in the country."
But his form this season has fallen woefully short of the standards he set himself last term, when he scored 34 goals in all competitions to establish himself as one of the world's top players. He has scored only once for United this season -- a penalty against West Ham -- and faces a spell on the sidelines after injuring his ankle in training on Tuesday.
A move to City would not sit well with United fans, who have already seen Tevez flourish at a club Ferguson dismissed last year as "noisy neighbours who you have to live with." City has recently moved above United in the Premier League table and has put together a squad that could realistically challenge for the title this season.
But if United, which has debts of around 750 million pounds (C$1.2 billion), wants to maximize the value of Rooney by selling him long before his contract expires, City could be the team that makes the biggest offer. In that situation, Ferguson would be left in the most unenviable of positions.