D.C. United’s Najar loaned to Anderlecht

January 7, 2013

D.C. United’s Andy Najar is going on loan to Anderlecht for the rest of the month, an arrangement that could lead to a permanent move by the teenager to the Belgian titans.

Najar, 19, trained with Anderlecht for two weeks last month and was scheduled to report to United training camp late next week. But Anderlecht’s keen interest in the Honduran-born defender/midfielder led to another, and more formal, stay.

Najar, who attended Edison High School in Alexandria and played in United’s youth academy, was in Washington for the holidays and returned to Europe over the weekend.

United officials did not want to comment Monday morning but seemed willing to go public with an update soon. UPDATE: “This is another good opportunity for Andy to gain valuable experience with a top European club,” General Manager Dave Kasper said in a written statement. “We look forward to his return for the second half of our preseason.”

While on loan, Najar is eligible to play for Anderlecht, which has an eight-point lead in the league race at the winter break. The club will have a friendly against Dutch club Heracles on Friday and face Gent in a Belgian Cup match Jan. 16. League play resumes four days later against second-place Zulte-Waregem.

Najar is scheduled to rejoin United in early February ahead of a 16-day camp and eight-team preseason tournament in the Orlando area. The MLS season will open March 2 with United visiting the Houston Dynamo in a rematch of the 2012 Eastern Conference finals.

However, if Anderlecht is impressed enough to seek a permanent move, United and MLS would enter negotiations with the club over a transfer fee. Because the league owns player contracts, clubs do not have full autonomy in such talks. Anderlecht could also wait until its season ends in May and the international transfer window re-opens in the summer.

United would collect three-quarters of the transfer fee, MLS getting the balance. (Homegrown players garner three-fourths, all other players two-thirds.)

Olympic teammate Roger Espinoza moved to English club Wigan from Sporting Kansas City this winter, but was out of contract with MLS. Najar signed a multiyear contract extension two years ago.

American midfielder Sacha Kljestan, formerly with Chivas USA, is in his third season with Anderlecht, which is based in Brussels and has won 31 league titles, including seven since 2000.

Najar has been a fixture in United’s lineup since signing a homegrown contract in March 2010. Exhibiting superb technique, pace and improvisation, he immediately emerged as one of MLS’s most exciting young players.

Najar began attracting international attention after helping Honduras’ under-23 national team qualify for the Summer Games in London and advance to the Olympic quarterfinals against Brazil. He has also become a candidate for the Honduran senior squad heading into 2014 World Cup qualifying this year.

Steven Goff is The Post’s soccer writer. His beats include D.C. United, MLS and the international game, as well as local college basketball.
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