Rooney feels hunger to taste US success with MLS deal

Here I come: Wayne Rooney arrives at Dulles International Airport on Thursday
AFP

Washington (AFP) – England record goalscorer Wayne Rooney left boyhood club Everton for D.C. United of Major League Soccer on Thursday, saying he hungers for American success to fulfill a career goal.

The US club and English Premier League outfit announced the agreement on a permanent transfer as Rooney was on a flight to Washington.

Rooney will complete his move when the MLS transfer window opens on July 10 and should be in the squad four days later when beleaguered United plays host to the Vancouver Whitecaps in the opening game at the US club’s new stadium.

“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.”

Rooney, 32, signed a three and a half year deal said to be worth $13 million. His 208 goals in 16 Premier League seasons ranks second on the all-time list.

“When I visited earlier this summer I was really impressed with everyone I met connected with the club, and of course the new Audi Field,” Rooney said. “Now I can’t wait to get on the pitch in a United shirt and join my new teammates to bring success to this club.”

The former Manchester United maestro posted a video on his Twitter account with him wearing a United jersey with him saying, “Hi DC, at work.”

Upon his afternoon arrival at Dulles Airport, Rooney was greeted by a large crowd of supporters. With a DC United scarf around his neck, Rooney posed for selfies and signed autographs on jerseys.

Rooney, wearing a grey baseball cap and accompanied by a small entourage, was later spotted at a beer garden in the city where fans watched Belgium’s 1-0 win over England in the World Cup. 

A chant of “Rooney, Rooney, Rooney” went up from the England fans, but the former England striker stayed only briefly before being hustled away.

Rooney departed with the best wishes of his former club, the same Everton side where he began his career at age 16 in 2002.

“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,” the club statement said.

United couldn’t be happier to see Rooney, needing a big-name drawing card for its new stadium and a talent boost to revamp a club at the bottom of the MLS Eastern Conference.

“This is a seminal moment for our fans and organization. Wayne is a global soccer icon and his presence at DC United will elevate our product on the pitch and soccer as a whole in our city and in this country,” said United chief executive Jason Levien.

“Wayne has thrived when competing at the most elite levels of soccer and we’re thrilled to have his leadership as we enter this new era.” 

– Beckham says great move – 

David Beckham, who paved the way for aging European superstars to extend their careers in North American with his 2007 transfer to LA Galaxy, said Rooney’s move was the right one.

“It’s great for Wayne and I also think it’s great for the league,” Beckham said. “It’s the right move for him. It’s exciting for fans. I think he’ll do really well. I think DC is the right club for him.”

Rooney also follows in the footsteps of the likes of Thierry Henry, Andrea Pirlo, David Villa, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and fellow Merseyside native Steven Gerrard.

England’s youngest-ever goalscorer, Rooney displayed a star turn at the 2004 European Championships and later that year joined another teen star, Cristiano Ronaldo, at Manchester United for the first of 13 seasons at the club, during which he racked up 253 goals in all competitions until returning to Everton last year.

– ‘We’re beyond excited’ –

Last August saw Rooney step down from international duties, with 119 England caps and 53 goals to his name.

“Wayne is undoubtedly one of the best players in Premier League history and his goal scoring record for club and country speaks for itself,” United general manager Dave Kasper said.

“He is a world-class player and he elevates those around him, both through his work-ethic and winning mentality. We’re beyond excited to add someone of Rooney’s caliber and we are thrilled to welcome him.”

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