Wayne Rooney, the former England and Manchester United star who has fallen out of favor at Everton at age 32, is in discussions to join D.C. United of Major League Soccer, perhaps as soon as next week.
The BBC reported Thursday that Rooney had agreed in principle on a move to M.L.S., but an M.L.S. source said there was no deal in place. Rooney is in the middle of a two-year contract at Everton, and even if the club and M.L.S. can agree to a transfer — or if Everton can be persuaded to let Rooney leave early — the player would still have to pass a physical before any deal could be signed.
Rooney joined Everton, his boyhood club, in July 2017 after 13 seasons at Manchester United. He would be the third aging former United star to move to M.L.S. in the last 15 months, after Bastian Schweinsteiger, who signed with the Chicago Fire before last season, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who became the Los Angeles Galaxy’s marquee acquisition this spring.
M.L.S. did not pay a transfer fee for Schweinsteiger or Ibrahimovic; both were allowed to leave United before the expiration of their contracts in order to pursue opportunities in the United States. It is unclear if the same arrangement would be true for Rooney.
He may not have reached the levels of greatness as a player which were expected back then – but countless footballers around the globe would love to ‘under-achieve’ in the same manner as Wayne Rooney.
Rooney’s signing would hark back to the early days of M.L.S., when the league often signed players well past their prime for their name value as much as their soccer talent. But aging Europeans like Rooney, as well as Schweinsteiger and Ibrahimovic, are now outliers in a league trending younger and less European. The league frequently notes that the 100-plus players who joined the league in the most recent transfer window had an average age of 25, and the league’s current leaders in goals and assists are all South Americans under age 24.
D.C. United is currently struggling — it is in last place in the Eastern Conference, with one win in its first seven games — and homeless as it prepares to move into a new stadium. After playing its final game at its longtime home, R.F.K. Stadium, at the end of last season, the team has spent most of this season on the road as it waits to open its new arena.