After weeks of speculation, former England captain Wayne Rooney swapped football for soccer Thursday, arriving in Washington to join beleaguered Major League Soccer side DC United.
While the club remained tight-lipped, it was a not-so-cryptic tweet that confirmed the rumors: the 32-year-old on a flight, grinning with thumbs up, his photo captioned by an American flag emoji. Everton and United later officially confirmed the transfer news.
“Everton and Wayne Rooney have reached an agreement for the player to join MLS (Major League Soccer) side DC United on a permanent transfer,” said a statement from the English club.
“Rooney will complete the formalities of his move when the MLS transfer window opens on July 10.
“From everyone at Everton, we thank Wayne for his service to the club and wish him every success in the next 3 1/2 years with DC United.”
“It is fantastic to be joining D.C. United at such an exciting time in the club’s history with the new stadium opening in just a few weeks,” Rooney said in a statement.
“Moving to America and MLS fulfills another career ambition for me. I have the hunger to be a success here and will give D.C. 100 percent – as I have always done for every team I have ever played for.”
The former England captain and Manchester United star was expected in the US capital to tie up the details of a contract that reports have said will be worth $13 million.
Rooney, 32, will be sidelined until the MLS transfer window opens on July 10, and available for 20 league matches this season.
However, the Washington Post reported the club hopes he could start training with the struggling side as early as the end of this week in order to be match ready in time for the opening of their new stadium, Audi Field, in mid-July.
DC United sits at the bottom of the MLS Eastern Conference but coach Ben Olsen this week said new additions to the side would be “exciting.”
“If and when additions come, it will be exciting. I think the additions that we will bring in will help this club in a whole bunch of different ways,” he said.
Rooney, a record goalscorer at both club and international level with Manchester United and England, comes to the MLS as one of the biggest names to ever grace the league.
Once England’s youngest-ever player – and still their youngest-ever goalscoarer – a 17-year-old Rooney whet fans’ ever-present appetite for a superstar-in-the-making at the 2004 European Championships.
The hype at fever pitch, that same year he joined another teenage whiz kid, Cristiano Ronaldo, at Manchester United for the first of 13 seasons at the club, during which he racked up 253 goals in all competitions.
After leaving Jose Mourinho’s side last year, he spent a season back where it all began – his boyhood club, Everton. But after an 11-goal season, he has ditched the Toffees midway through his contract to make the move stateside.
Last August also saw Rooney step down from international duties, with 119 England caps for England and 53 goals to his name.
It was David Beckham who paved the way for aging European superstars to extend their careers in the North American league, with his 2007 transfer to LA Galaxy.
But Rooney also follows in the footsteps of the likes of Thierry Henry, Andrea Pirlo, David Villa – and, of course, fellow Merseyside native Steven Gerrard. Rooney and Ibrahimovic’s recent arrivals have, however, bucked a recent trend in MLS in which clubs have tended to recruit younger and up-and-coming overseas players.