David Moyes believes the Premier League will be losing the last of the "street footballers" if Wayne Rooney opts to leave Everton for D.C. United.
Multiple reports on Thursday said Rooney had agreed in principle to join D.C. United for a £12 million fee, though sources told ESPN FC that a deal has yet to be confirmed and the Washington Post, which first reported D.C.'s interest on Tuesday, said the transfer's chances were "50-50."
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," Moyes 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 manager Sam Allardyce said earlier he would not stand in Rooney's way if he wanted to leave, but stressed the forward has not asked for a transfer.
While some players like Steven Gerrard saw their careers dwindle out when moving to the MLS, Moyes believes Rooney, 32, could play on for some time. The BBC reported the proposed deal with D.C. United runs through December 2020.
"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."