D.C. United is finalizing a deal with Belgian club Anderlecht to sell Andy Najar, a 19-year-old defender/midfielder who ascended from the youth academy to win MLS rookie of the year honors and become one of the league’s most exciting young players.
Najar, a native of Honduras who attended Edison High School in Alexandria before signing with United three years ago, has been on loan with Anderlecht all month and was scheduled to depart this week. However, after weeks of negotiation, the clubs reached a transfer deal Tuesday, multiple sources told the Insider.
United officials did not want to comment. Najar’s agents, Chris Megaloudis and Lyle Yorks, didn’t respond to phone calls and text messages.
United had turned down two offers from Anderlecht, a tactic that increased the final sale price. The fee is estimated to be at least $2 million. MLS is preparing to sell FC Dallas midfielder Brek Shea, a U.S. national team player, to Stoke City in the lucrative English Premier League for $4 million.
A sell-on clause is typically part of a transfer, meaning United would benefit from a future sale involving Najar.
Najar would become MLS’s first homegrown academy player to make a permanent move to Europe.
Najar played for the Honduras under-23 squad at the Olympics last summer in England and is beginning to break into the senior national team roster. He has been summoned for a 2014 World Cup qualifier against the United States next week and will report to training camp in San Pedro Sula on Friday.
United would collect three-quarters of Najar transfer fee. The balance goes to MLS, which owns all player contracts. MLS clubs typically receive two-thirds of a transfer, but the share is larger for homegrown players.
After starring for the under-16 and under-18 squads, Najar started most of United’s matches during his three pro seasons. As a rookie, he appeared in 26 of 30 regular season games and led the last-place team in points with five goals and an assist.
Najar’s natural position is on the flank, where he utilized clever footwork, speed and unpredictability. He offered a refreshing, dynamic style of play to a club suffering through the worst stretch in its history. Last summer, partly out of team need, Coach Ben Olsen turned him into a right-side defender. The move provided United with an attacking weapon out of the back.
In Anderlecht friendlies this month, Najar played on the right side of midfield. He will not play in the Belgian Cup match today against Genk.
Anderlecht, based in Brussels, is Belgium’s most distinguished club with 31 league titles since 1947 and qualifies regularly for the UEFA Champions League, European club soccer’s most prestigious competition.
Anderlecht is currently in first place with 17 victories, two losses and four draws for 55 points, eight ahead of Zulte-Waregem. American midfielder Sacha Kljestan has been with Anderlecht for three seasons after transferring from MLS’s Chivas USA.
With Najar imminent departure, United’s top options at right back are Chris Korb and Robbie Russell. Korb has played regularly on both the left and right in his previous two pro seasons. He started on the left side late last year in place of Daniel Woolard, who was sidelined with a concussion. Woolard is healthy again and United drafted Taylor Kemp from the University of Maryland this month.
Neven Markovic, a Serbian left back most recently with Sporting Kansas City, is also in training camp.
Russell, who at 33 is considering retirement after this year, started 16 times last year — his first with United after four with Real Salt Lake — before missing several months with a foot injury.
Najar’s contract earned him $150,000 last year, not including guarantees and bonuses. The transfer opens salary cap space for United to pursue other players before the March 2 regular season opener at Houston or use during the next signing period this summer.