Gallardo Set to Join D.C. United

By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 28, 2008

Marcelo Gallardo, a two-time World Cup midfielder for Argentina who once was considered among the sport's best playmakers, has arrived in Washington and will join D.C. United for the start of training camp this week, sources familiar with the negotiations said last night.

Gallardo, 32, has agreed to terms on a long-term contract, but United cannot officially add him to the roster until final paperwork is completed. United will hold its first practice this morning outside RFK Stadium, though it is uncertain whether Gallardo will participate right away or wait until camp moves to Bradenton, Fla., on Wednesday.

It also is unclear whether United is acquiring him through MLS's year-old designated player rule, which allows clubs to sign high-profile players, such as David Beckham, outside normal salary guidelines.

United officials declined to comment.

Gallardo's arrival marks the end of compatriot Christian Gomez's 3 1/2 -year stay with United. Gomez, the 2006 MLS most valuable player and a three-time all-league selection, failed to reach a new deal with the club this winter. United is apparently trying to trade his MLS rights, perhaps to Colorado, but Gomez, 33, could end up signing with a club in Latin America or the Middle East.

Gallardo is the most internationally accomplished player to join United in the club's 12-year history, other than Bulgarian forward Hristo Stoitchkov, a former European player of the year who spent the 2003 season at RFK Stadium before retiring.

Gallardo's national team career began at age 18 and included 44 appearances and 14 goals. He played in three of Argentina's five matches at the 1998 World Cup in France, starting once, and was named to the squad again four years later, but did not play as the team was eliminated in first-round group play.

Gallardo spent his first seven years as a professional with River Plate, of the famed Argentine Primera Division, before being sold to Monaco in the French league. He led the club to the 2000 championship and was named the league's player of the year. In 2003, he returned to River Plate and scored 25 goals in 77 league matches over three-plus years, then joined Paris Saint-Germain.

Out of contract this winter after a disappointing year, Gallardo considered returning to Argentina, but told reporters in South America last week that he was preparing to sign with an MLS team. United officials apparently began to look seriously at Gallardo last month after failing to strike a deal with another renowned Argentine midfielder, Juan Sebastian Veron.

Gallardo will be the fifth South American acquired by United this month, joining Peruvian goalkeeper Jose Carvallo, Colombian defender Gonzalo Martinez, Argentine defender Gonzalo Peralta and Argentine forward Franco Niell.

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