DC United signal Christian Benteke


DC United acquired Belgian national team winger Christian Benteke from Crystal Palace on Friday, adding a 10-year Premier League veteran as the MLS transfer and trade window closed as the London club prepared to start its season.

The deal was reached late Thursday, hours before MLS’s midnight deadline and one day before Palace’s opener against Arsenal, giving new coach Wayne Rooney and the last-place organization the biggest roster of the summer.

“Christian is a great player who has played at the highest level for a long time,” said Rooney, who faced Benteke on several occasions during his playing career with Manchester United and Everton. “His experience and ability to score goals and help the team will be invaluable. It’s exciting for the team and myself to get him in and play. It will make a huge difference.”

Benteke, 31, will become the highest paid player in the club’s history, two people familiar with the said terms said. His salary will exceed Rooney’s $3.5 million deal in 2019, his second and final season as a United player.

Benteke is signed through the 2024 season, and the club has an option for 2025.

He will fill United’s third and final senior designated player slot, joining Greek attacker Taxi Fountas and Icelandic defensive midfielder Victor Palsson.

United also paid an undisclosed transfer fee, believed to be worth millions, to Crystal Palace, Benteke’s club for the past six seasons.

He is not allowed to play in MLS until his work visa is approved, a process that usually takes at least two weeks, but he is expected to visit Washington as early as next week to meet his new teammates, find housing and get used to the weather. .

Wayne Rooney is a megastar. More importantly, he wants to coach.

“His strength and power will make him a focal point for our team and his ability to connect play will be a valuable asset for us,” United General Manager Lucy Rushton said in a statement. “We are excited to integrate Christian into the team so he can make an immediate impact.”

Dave Kasper, United’s president of soccer operations, said in an interview that the club began contacting Benteke’s representatives seven to 10 days ago. At first, he said, the prospect looked bleak because of high financial demands.

But Kasper said he worked closely with Benteke’s agent, Kismet Eris, and the respective owners negotiated the transfer fee and other considerations.

In addition, Kasper said, Rooney spoke to Benteke – an interaction that, although they didn’t know each other well, helped move the process along. “That played a big role in bringing him to the club,” Kasper said.

In signing Rooney last month, United were counting on former England stars using their stature in the sport to lure players to Washington.

Among Rooney’s top priorities was signing a major breakthrough. United got nowhere with Luton Town’s 6-foot-4 Elijah Adebayo but traded with Columbus Crew for 6-3 Miguel Berry and landed 6-2 Benteke.

Benteke was once one of the most valuable strikers in Europe. Liverpool paid Aston Villa $51 million for the Belgian in 2015, and a year later, Palace acquired him from the Reds for $34 million.

His best season with Palace was his first, 2016-17, when he recorded 15 league goals. He scored 10 in 2020-21 but made just four of 11 starts (25 appearances) last season. All those goals came last fall, and while Odsonne Édouard has succeeded in securing the striker’s starting job, Benteke has gone scoreless in his last 13 appearances, mostly as a substitute.

In his 280 game Premier League career, he had 86 goals and 23 assists.

With the Belgian national team, Benteke has posted 18 goals in 45 games, last appearing for FIFA’s second-placed team in March. He played in two European Championships.

What to know about the 2022-23 English Premier League season

Benteke is United’s latest signing of the summer window, joining goalkeeper Berry David Ochoa (Real Salt Lake), winger Martín Rodríguez (Altay, Turkey), midfielder Ravel Morrison (Derby County, England) and defensive midfielder Palsson (Scalke, Germany).

Ochoa and Palsson have yet to make their debuts.

While Ochoa and Palsson promise to help the defensive cause, United have not addressed backline issues. The club (6-13-3) conceded a league-worst 47 goals, and during 3-0 win on Wednesday at Charlotte FCcentre-back Brendan Hines-Ike (20 starts) has suffered a foot injury which is expected to sideline him for the rest of the season.

United lack depth in every back line. Sami Guediri, who started the year at second division Loudoun United, is starting at left back. Right back Andy Najar, a regular starter for much of the year, has been relegated to a sub role under Rooney; Chris Odoi-Atsem is starting.

Donovan Pines, who has struggled this season, and Tony Alfaro are the best options to replace Hines-Ike and partner captain Steven Birnbaum in central defense.

Teams are allowed to sign domestic and international free agents until the roster freeze on September 2nd.

Benteke joins a crowded group of starters. Berry and Ola Kamara have changed as starters for the striker and Michael Estrada and Nigel Robertha have not even been in uniform recently.

Neither Kamara (seven goals and one goal in 20 games) nor Estrada (four goals and four goals in 16 games) are expected to return next season. Kamara’s $1.5 million contract expires this winter, while Estrada is on loan from Mexican club Toluca.

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