D.C. United is moving closer to striking a deal with English superstar Wayne Rooney but, people familiar with the negotiations said Thursday, talks are likely to continue for another week.
BBC and Sky News reported the sides have an agreement in principle for the 32-year-old attacker to join the MLS club this summer. However, one person close to the D.C. organization told The Washington Post that the outlook is “50-50.”
Rooney is the career scoring leader for both Manchester United and the English national team. He played for Liverpool-based Everton this season and, although he has a year remaining on his contract, the sides are reportedly prepared to part ways. Everton, eighth in the 20-team Premier League, will play its last match Sunday at West Ham.
D.C. would almost certainly have to pay a transfer fee; BBC and Sky reported United would pay about $17 million, by far the largest acquisition sum in the club’s 22-year history.
D.C. would also have to agree to a multiyear, guaranteed contract in the millions, another club record.
If Rooney signs, he would not be eligible to play until the MLS transfer and trade window opens July 10.
United officials said they will not comment on the Rooney matter. In general, the investment group and technical staff have spoken openly about pursuing high-end players this summer, which would coincide with the July 14 opening of a new stadium, Audi Field.
The club is looking to bolster both the on-field product — United is 1-4-2 this season and tied for the fewest points in the league last year — and its marketing punch to sell tickets at the new venue in Southwest D.C.
Rooney is past his prime in the elite Premier League and has retired from the national team, meaning he will not play in the World Cup this summer in Russia. However, D.C. believes he would have a major impact in MLS, which has improved over the years but remains a big step behind the top European circuits.
Rooney has scored 10 goals for Everton, his boyhood club, but none since December. In all competitions, he has posted 11 goals.
By moving to D.C., Rooney would become the latest high-profile international player to join MLS late in his career. Others since 2007 have included David Beckham, David Villa, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Kaka, Andrea Pirlo, Bastian Schweinsteiger and, most recently, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The league is actually trending younger — the 111 newcomers this year are an average age of 25 — and has signed several impact players from Latin America. The big names, though, receive the greatest mainstream attention.
D.C.’s wish list this summer has also included Italy’s Mario Balotelli, Argentina’s Carlos Tevez and Mexico’s Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez. It’s unclear how much money club investors are willing to spend on upgrading the roster. D.C. has two open slots for designated players, who make considerably more than the average MLS player. The only current DP is Paul Arriola, a U.S. national team midfielder.
D.C. first approached Rooney’s representatives last summer as he prepared to leave Manchester United after 13 seasons and 253 goals, but he decided to join Everton. The sides reengaged this spring and, three weeks ago, Rooney’s agent, Paul Stretford, visited Washington to meet D.C. officials and tour Audi Field.