Wayne Rooney to D.C.?

Reports from both sides of the Atlantic suggest that, more likely than not, English football legend Wayne Rooney will leave Everton this summer for D.C. United. Rooney is the all-time leading scorer for both the English national team and Manchester United. He’s the second all-time leading scorer in the Premier League.

This season, he returned from Man U to Everton, the club he supported as a boy and debuted for so spectacularly a decade and a half ago. During the first half of this season, Rooney scored 10 goals and was among the league leaders in that category. His performances helped keep struggling Everton above water. And no Evertonian will forget the big goal he scored against Liverpool in the Merseyside Derby.

However, Rooney was scoreless in the second half of the season. This was due in part to minor injuries, in part to the way new manager Sam Allardyce deployed him , and probably in part to tired legs.

D.C. United desperately needs a star player. The club dominated Major League Soccer in the late 1990s, but MLS contrived to break the team up, apparently on the theory that the existence of a super-club somehow harmed the league.

Nowadays, MLS seems fine with super-clubs, and European stars have migrated to teams in the biggest markets — New York and Los Angeles. Meanwhile, D.C. United has fed off of scraps. While New York and LA teams acquired the likes of Robbie Keane, David Beckham, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, David Villa, and Andrea Pirlo, D.C. had to be content with obscure members of the Macedonian or Hungarian national team who had plied their trade in places like Austria.

Now the club is about to move into a new stadium. It needs a calling card.

Rooney is under contract for another year at Everton and is still good enough to play for us. However, the uncertain situation at the club renders his situation uncertain.

Sam Allardyce did his job, pulling us out of relegation difficulty and comfortably into the top half of the EPL. However, fans deplore the style of defensive football we play under Sam, while ownership seems to question whether he can take the club to the next level.

Without knowing who will manage the team next year, it’s difficult for ownership to know whether Rooney fits in and for Rooney to know whether he wants to stay. The most rational approach might be to wait until July, the earliest MLS rules would allow him to come to D.C., before resolving the situation.

However, Rooney reportedly has decided he wants out. And with D.C. United apparently offering a sizable fee, the club seems willing to let him go.

That fee is said to be around $17 million. I doubt an English club would be willing to pay that much. Rooney is a $17 million talent, but he’s also 32 years old.

The Chinese might well be willing to pay more than $17 million. However, the Rooney family — his wife and four boys, one a new-born — would likely be much happier in the U.S. than in China.

Is Rooney worth $17 million to D.C. United? That depends on his drawing power, which I’m not really able to assess. The team’s fan base has always been primarily Latino, but there’s no reason why a player of Rooney’s caliber and reputation wouldn’t draw Latinos, and there are loads of EPL fans, including many Man U supporters, in the area.

As a player, Rooney might not be ideal for the club. At this stage of his career, Rooney’s footballing brain is his biggest asset. But that asset is diminished in the absence of players who can think with him. I question whether D.C. United has those players. But who knows, maybe some of them just need a Rooney to bring out their quality.

D.C. United might be better off with a pure goal scorer like Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, Rooney’s ex-teammate at Manchester United. Hernandez is Mexican, which would help at the gate. And he’s three years younger than Rooney. But does Hernandez want to come here?

Personally, I’d be delighted to see Rooney with D.C. United. Quite apart from the Everton connection, his addition would hark back to the days when the late Johan Cruyff — who, even more than Rooney, combined exquisite skill and footballing genius — graced RFK Stadium for the Washington Diplomats.

Some call soccer “the beautiful game.” The sport rarely manages to live up to that billing, but when a Cruyff or a Rooney is in form, it easily does.

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