David Moyes believes the Premier League will be losing the last of the “street footballers” if Wayne Rooney opts to leave Everton for DC United.
Rooney, 32, has been linked with a move across the pond to Major League Soccer this summer despite only rejoining his boyhood club from Manchester United a year ago.
The former England captain has scored 11 goals this season but none since December – with reports suggesting a switch to Washington DC could be on the cards.
West Ham boss Moyes was in charge at Everton as Rooney progressed through the ranks and handed the 16-year-old his debut in 2002.
The pair were later reunited at Old Trafford as Moyes succeeded Sir Alex Ferguson, but lasted less than a season in the job as United manager.
A knee injury means Rooney will not come up against his former boss when Everton travel to the London Stadium on Sunday.
But, speaking ahead of the game, Moyes was full of adulation for a player who holds the record for the most goals scored for both England and Manchester United.
“He has been an incredible player,” he said.
“I don’t think you break the record at Manchester United as a top goalscorer and break the record for England if you haven’t contributed enormous amounts.
“Really, he has been under pressure from being a young player, from being 16 years old. He’s had to deal with so much in his life.
“He could play in goal, he could play as a right-back, he could play as a centre-half, he could play as a midfielder.
“It was always because he was a footballer. He was a genuine old-fashioned street footballer. I used to say, there wasn’t many left.”
Asked if Rooney’s departure would mean an end to the era of so-called “street footballers” Moyes added: “I think so.
“I don’t know if there are many of what we call street footballers around any more. For me, he was the last of that type.
“There were days when Wayne Rooney was young, he would play for the first team then he would go back and be out kicking the ball with his pals in the street.
“Those stories are ones we hope still exist. They did then, I don’t know if they exist as much now.”
.@Everton boss Sam Allardyce on @WayneRooney âMy understanding is there seems to have been some negotiation along the line but as for clarity as to whether Wayne is staying or going weâll see later on.— Carl Markham (@carlmarkham) May 11, 2018
Everton boss Sam Allardyce insisted on Friday that Rooney has not asked to leave Goodison Park but conceded: “My understanding of the situation is there seems to have been some negotiation somewhere along the line.
“Wayne is a special player but if any player wants to leave they can, in my opinion. Whether they can or can’t is another matter.”
While some players see their careers dwindle out when moving to the MLS, Moyes believes Rooney could play on for some time.
“I don’t expect Wayne to be finishing here,” he added.
“I hope Wayne goes and has another couple of hundred games in the MLS.
“I can tell you great stories about Wayne and the things that he has done.
“This day, we had a small game, eight-a-side game and he scored a goal right from the byline, chipped a goal from the byline, and it was one of those moments where all the staff were looking around at each other.
“We were all looking and saying, ‘Did he do that? Did he really do that? Nah, he didn’t do it, did he? He didn’t chip him?’ It was a moment where it stood still for us.
“As a young boy he could handle himself with the seniors. He could go with the men. That’s why the big thing was he was really well developed, strong and able to play senior football very early on.”