Wayne Rooney would become one of MLS’s highest-paid players, if the English superstar ends up signing with D.C. United.
United is prepared to pay him between $5 million and $8 million per season, said a well-connected figure who requested anonymity in order to speak about the negotiations.
In data released by the MLS Players Association on Thursday, the top earner this spring is Toronto FC forward Sebastian Giovinco with a base salary of $5.6 million and overall compensation of $7.1 million. Teammate Michael Bradley is second in total earnings at $6.5 million ($6 million base).
Others collecting $5 million or more in total compensation are Los Angeles FC forward Carlos Vela ($6.3 million), Chicago Fire midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger ($6.1 million), Los Angeles Galaxy forward Giovani dos Santos ($6 million), New York City FC forward David Villa ($5.6 million) and Toronto forward Jozy Altidore ($5 million).
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the Los Angeles Galaxy’s celebrated signing this spring, is making a modest $1.5 million.
Rooney, 32, is collecting an estimated $10 million this season with Everton, the Premier League club for which he has scored 11 goals in all competitions but none since a torrid stretch in November and December.
United’s biggest payout was $1.87 million, given in 2008 to Argentine midfielder Marcelo Gallardo. Its highest-paid player this year is Hungarian midfielder Zoltan Stieber, who is listed at $999,999.
The debate among D.C. supporters and fans around the league is whether United is going to spend too much on a player with a famous name but diminishing returns. Rooney is the career scoring leader for Manchester United and the English national team but has averaged a shade less than nine league goals his past four seasons.
United apparently believes he has plenty to offer, particularly in MLS, which is a step down from the Premier League. New York Red Bulls forward Bradley Wright-Phillips has scored 92 goals in 147 matches since arriving from England’s third division in summer 2013. At 33, he remains one of the league’s premier finishers.
Rooney and United have agreed to broad terms on the proposed deal, multiple sources said, but have yet to iron out the details, such as incentives. There is also the matter of a lucrative transfer fee Everton would demand because Rooney is under contract next season.
Between the salary and transfer fee, United could end up spending between $15 million and $20 million on a single player.
A formal agreement between the various sides is not imminent, and some inside D.C. headquarters say they are tempering expectations because such proposed deals can turn at any moment. One person close to the team rated United’s chances on landing Rooney at 50 percent.
The club went through a similar situation in December 2007, when, on the brink of becoming United’s first designated player, Argentine midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron changed his mind at the 11th hour and signed with his boyhood club, Estudiantes. United then inked Gallardo, who lasted one year.
Everton is Rooney’s boyhood club, but after returning to the Liverpool side last summer following 13 years at Manchester United, he seems set to leave this summer. The Chinese league, which has lured several world-class players with massive contracts, could also enter the mix, though family and lifestyle preferences are more likely to keep him in Europe or draw him stateside.
Rooney has based his entire club career in the 34-mile stretch linking Manchester and Liverpool in North West England.
Like in Veron’s case, Rooney and his wife have begun exploring housing options in Northern Virginia for them and their four children. United’s training grounds and stadium are in the city, but next spring, the club plans to christen a new training center in Leesburg.
Rooney and Everton will close the 2017-18 season Sunday at West Ham, though a minor knee injury will prevent him from playing. The earliest he could visit Washington for additional talks and a physical is late next week, one source said, leaving a possible official deal at least 10 days to two weeks away.
In England, Everton Manager Sam Allardyce said: “If the player wants to go – if any player wants to leave – then I’m comfortable with that. My understanding of the situation is there seems to have been some negotiation somewhere along the line. I don’t get involved in anything with regards to transfers, so all I know is there appears to be interest from D.C. United. Where that lies and where Wayne lies with it, I can’t tell you at the moment.”
Rooney’s affairs are handled by Paul Stretford, his longtime agent and confidant. Stretford visited Washington about three weeks ago, meeting with United officials and touring Audi Field, a 20,000-capacity venue that will open July 14.
Even if Rooney were to sign soon, he would not be eligible to play until the MLS transfer and trade window opens July 10. Beginning with the inaugural match against Vancouver at its new stadium, United will play 15 of the final 20 league matches at home.
The strain of MLS’s long-distance travel would not affect Rooney this year: United’s remaining away matches are against Atlanta, Montreal, New York Red Bulls, New York City FC and Chicago Fire. He would, though, have to acclimate to Washington’s oppressive summer heat and humidity.
Meanwhile, United (1-4-2) has begun a heavy stretch of travel by arriving in Utah for Saturday night’s match against Real Salt Lake (3-5-1). During the road swing leading to the Audi Field debut, the club will also visit Los Angeles twice, San Jose and Seattle.
United has not won a league match at Real Salt Lake since its first visit in 2005.
D.C. United at Real Salt Lake
Where: Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah.
When: 9 p.m. Saturday.
TV: NewsChannel 8.
Records: United 1-4-2, 5 points; Real 3-5-1, 10 points.
D.C. probable starters: GK Steve Clark; Ds Nick DeLeon, Steve Birnbaum, Frederic Brillant, Joseph Mora; MFs Zoltan Stieber, Chris Durkin, Ulises Segura, Luciano Acosta, Yamil Asad; F Darren Mattocks.
RSL probable starters: GK Nick Rimando; Ds Brooks Lennon, Justen Glad, Nick Besler, Pablo Ruiz; MFs Kyle Beckerman, Albert Rusnak, Damir Kreilach; Fs Jefferson Savarino, Corey Beard, Joao Plata.
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