Rooney denies betting rift with Owen

WAYNE ROONEY has dismissed talks of a rift with his England strike partner Michael Owen over an alleged betting ring.

Reports suggested the Manchester United star was furious with Owen for letting him get sucked so heavily into the gambling scene.

Rooney, who earns at least £50,000 (€72,000) a week, has racked up a £700,000 (€1 million) debt betting on horses, dogs and football, according to the Sunday Mirror.

But yesterday a spokesman for the 20-year-old striker, and his management company Proactive Sports Management, flatly denied reports of a row.

He said: “Any suggestion of a rift or a dispute between Wayne and Michael are completely without foundation as far as Wayne is concerned. Wayne and Michael remain the best of pals.”

The controversy comes with less than nine weeks to go before England’s first World Cup game in Germany. Rooney’s statement will go some way to easing the concerns of boss Sven Goran Eriksson, who intends to speak with the striker and other senior players over the allegations about rifts in the national camp.

Several of Rooney’s England teammates are also reported to have embarked on heavy gambling stints, although none has accrued losses to such an extreme figure. Eriksson’s mission, through informal chats, will be to determine whether any issues have arisen between players as a consequence.

The furore did not appear to have knocked Rooney off his stride as the striker slammed home a trademark goal and created another during a Premiership clash with Arsenal on Sunday.

Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson also came out in the player’s defence. “It is pathetic,” he said.

“We know Wayne Rooney. It is rubbish and we shall dismiss it the best we can.”

PFA deputy chief executive Mick McGuire is due to speak to Rooney’s advisers to determine the extent of the 20-year-old’s alleged problem.

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