DC United takes over Christian Benteke

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DC United on Friday picked up Belgian national team striker Christian Benteke from Crystal Palace, adding a 10-year-old Premier League veteran as the MLS transfer and trading window closed and the London club prepared for the start of the season.

The deal was made late Thursday evening, hours before the MLS midnight stop time and the day before the Palace opened against Arsenal, giving new coach Wayne Rooney and the last team the most notoriety this summer.

“Christian is a top player who has played at the highest level for a long time,” said Rooney, who has faced Benteke on several occasions during his career at Manchester United and Everton. “His experience and his ability to score goals and help the team will be invaluable. It’s been exciting for the band and for me to get involved 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 these terms. His salary will exceed the $ 3.5 million Rooney Pact in 2019, his second and final season as a United player.

Benteke has signed a contract for the 2024 season and the club has an option for 2025.

He will take third and final place at United for designated top players, joining Greek forward Taxi Fountas and Icelandic defensive midfielder Victor Palsson.

United have also paid an undisclosed multi-million dollar transfer fee to Crystal Palace to Benteke over the past six seasons.

He is not allowed to play MLS until his work visa is approved, which usually takes at least two weeks, but is expected to visit Washington as early as next week to meet his new teammates, find an apartment and acclimatize to weather.

Wayne Rooney is a superstar. More importantly, he wants to train.

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

Dave Kasper, president of United’s soccer operations, said in an interview that the club began working with Benteke officials seven to ten days ago. Initially, he said, the prospects seemed bleak due to high financial demands.

But Kasper said he was working closely with Benteke’s agent, Kismet Eris, with their owners negotiating the transfer fee and other considerations.

Also, as Kasper said, Rooney spoke to Benteke – an interaction that, while they didn’t know each other very well, helped move on. “It played a big role in bringing him to the club,” said Kasper.

By hiring Rooney last month, United hoped the former English superstar would use his status in the sport to attract players to Washington.

One of Rooney’s top priorities was to sign a deal with the big striker. United didn’t get anything against Luton Town’s Elijah Adebayo 6 feet 4 inches, but swapped from Columbus Crew for Miguel Berry’s 6-3 and Benteke’s 6-2 landed.

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

His best season at Palace was his first 2016-17 season, when he scored 15 league goals. He scored 10 goals in the 2020-21 season, but only four out of 11 starts (25 appearances) last season. All of those goals came last fall and while Odsonne Édouard secured his initial job as a forward, Benteke conceded in his last 13 appearances, mostly as a substitute.

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

Along with Belgium, Benteke scored 18 goals in 45 games, his last appearance in the second-ranked FIFA side in March. He played in two European Championships.

What you should know about the 2022-23 English Premier League season

Benteke is United’s latest summer window purchase, joining Berry, goalkeeper David Ochoa (Real Salt Lake), winger Martín Rodríguez (Altai, Turkey), attacking midfielder Ravel Morrison (Derby County, England) and defensive midfielder Palsson (Schalke, Germany). .

Ochoa and Palsson have yet to make their debut.

While Ochoa and Palsson are promising to help defensively, United have not addressed the problems behind. The club (6-13: 3) conceded 47 of the worst goals in the league, and during Wednesday’s 3-0 defeat to Charlotte FC center-back Brendan Hines-Ike (20 games) suffered a foot injury that will probably move him away from the rest. in the season.

United lacks depth in every position in the back lane. Sami Guediri, who started the year in Loudoun United’s second division, starts with the left-back. Right-back Andy Najar, who started regularly for most of the year, was relegated to a midfielder role under Rooney; Chris Odoi-Atsem starts.

Donovan Pines, who has had problems this season, and Tony Alfaro are the best options to replace Hines-Ike and work with Captain Steven Birnbaum on central defense.

Teams are allowed to sign national and international free agents until the squad freezes on September 2.

Benteke joins a crowded group of attackers. Berry and Ola Kamara took turns as starters for the striker, while Michael Estrada and Nigel Robertha weren’t even in uniform lately.

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

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