Saturday, December 15, 2007
D.C. United's pursuit of Argentine superstar Juan Sebasti¿n Ver¿n came to a disappointing end yesterday, when the former World Cup midfielder announced that he would remain with his boyhood club, Estudiantes.
Although club officials never publicly acknowledged their pursuit of Ver¿n, their desire to sign him was well known throughout MLS and Latin America. In recent weeks, reports in Argentina indicated that Ver¿n was set to join United and become its first signing under MLS's year-old designated player rule, which allows teams to acquire marquee players, such as David Beckham, outside normal salary cap restrictions.
"I'm staying because of the fans and my teammates," Ver¿n told Argentine reporters. "I couldn't say goodbye."
United President Kevin Payne declined to comment.
Ver¿n, 32, is among the most accomplished players in the game, having starred in the Argentine league, in Italy's fabled Serie A and in England's Premiership with Manchester United and Chelsea. He also played in the World Cup in 1998 and 2002. He returned home last year to rejoin Estudiantes, but with his contract set to expire this month, United officials made several trips to Argentina in an attempt to work out a deal.
A source close to the situation said a contract had been tentatively negotiated but not signed, and that Ver¿n had acquired a U.S. visa. "They are surprised and disappointed; they thought they were going to get him," the source said of team officials.
With Ver¿n's rejection, United will look elsewhere in Latin America for an impact player, although it might not necessarily sign a designated player, another source said. Under the rule, the league pays a player's salary up to $400,000 and the club is responsible for the balance. Ver¿n would have earned in excess of $1 million.
Even without Ver¿n, United's roster is set to undergo major changes. Goalkeeper Troy Perkins is planning to sign with a Norwegian club, defender Bobby Boswell was traded to Houston, attackers Christian Gomez and Jaime Moreno are uncertain to return, midfielder Brian Carroll was taken by San Jose in the expansion draft and midfielder Josh Gros is contemplating retirement.
-- Steven Goff