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Wayne Rooney will become one of MLS’s highest-paid players at DC United if Everton transfer goes through

The former Manchester United striker is in negotiations to become Major League Soccer’s latest foreign star, with a lucrative deal on the table

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 May, 2018, 12:10pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 May, 2018, 12:10pm

Wayne Rooney would become one of MLS’s highest-paid players, if the English superstar ends up signing with DC United.

United are prepared to pay him between US$5 million and US$8 million per season, said a well-connected figure who requested anonymity to speak about the negotiations.

In data released by the MLS Players Association, the top earner this spring is Toronto FC forward Sebastian Giovinco with a base salary of US$5.6 million and overall compensation of US$7.1 million. Teammate Michael Bradley is second in total earnings with US$6.5 million (US$6 million base).

Others collecting US$5 million or more in total compensation are Los Angeles FC forward Carlos Vela (US$6.3 million), Chicago Fire midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger (US$6.1 million), Los Angeles Galaxy forward Giovani dos Santos (US$6 million), New York City FC forward David Villa (US$5.6 million) and Toronto forward Jozy Altidore (US$5 million).

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the Los Angeles Galaxy’s celebrated signing this spring, is making a modest US$1.5 million.

Rooney, 32, is collecting an estimated US$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 US$1.87 million, given in 2008 to Argentine midfielder Marcelo Gallardo. Their highest-paid player this year is Hungarian midfielder Zoltan Stieber, who is listed at US$999,999.

The debate among DC supporters and fans around the league is whether United are going to spend too much on a player with a famous name but diminishing returns.

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Rooney is the leading scorer in history for Manchester United and the England national team but has averaged a shade under nine league goals the past four seasons.

DC United apparently believe 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 the summer of 2013. At 33, he remains one of the league’s best 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 that Everton would demand because Rooney is under contract next season.

Between the salary and transfer fee, United could end up spending between US$15 million and US$20 million on a single player.

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A formal agreement between the various sides is not imminent, and some inside DC headquarters say they are tempering expectations because such proposed deals can turn at any moment. One source close to the team rated United’s chances on landing Rooney at 50 per cent.

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 eleventh hour and signed with his boyhood club, Estudiantes. The club then signed Gallardo, who lasted one year.

Everton are Rooney’s boyhood club, but after returning to Goodison Park last summer following 13 years at Manchester United, he seems set to leave this summer. The Chinese Super 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 Europe or draw him stateside.

Rooney has based his entire club career in the 34-mile stretch linking Manchester and Liverpool in northwest England.

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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 centre in Leesburg.

Rooney and Everton will close out the 2017-18 season on 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 medical 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 DC 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 long-time 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 on July 10. Beginning with the inaugural match against Vancouver at their new stadium, United will play 15 of their final 20 league matches at home.