DC United have signed Christian Benteke

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DC United signed Belgium international Christian Benteke from Crystal Palace on Friday, adding a 10-year Premier League veteran as the MLS transfer window closed and the London club prepared to start the season.

The deal was completed late on Thursday, hours before MLS’s midnight deadline and a day before Palace’s opener against Arsenal, giving new manager Wayne Rooney and the bottom-placed organization the biggest signing of the summer.

“Christian is the best player to have played at the highest level for a long time,” said Rooney, who faced Benteke on numerous occasions during his playing career at Manchester United and Everton. “His experience and ability to score goals and help the team will be invaluable.” The team and I are excited to bring him in and play. He will make a huge difference.”

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

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

He will fill United’s third and final top-flight slot, joining Greek forward Taxi Fountas and Icelandic defensive midfielder Victor Palsson.

United have also paid an undisclosed transfer fee worth several million to Crystal Palace Benteke over the past six seasons.

He is not allowed to play in MLS until his work visa is approved. The process 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 be a coach.

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

Dave Kasper, United’s president of football operations, said in an interview that the club had been in contact with Benteke’s representatives 7-10 days ago. At first, he said, the outlook looked bleak because of the heavy financial demands.

But Kasper said he had been working closely with Benteke’s agent, Kismet Eris, with the respective owners negotiating a transfer fee and other matters.

And Kasper said Rooney had spoken to Benteke, an interaction that, despite not knowing each other very well, helped move the process along. “That played a big part in bringing him to the club,” Kasper said.

When Rooney was hired last month, United hoped the former England superstar would use his status in the sport to help lure players to Washington.

One of Rooney’s top priorities was to sign a big striker. United got nowhere with Luton Town’s 6ft Elijah Adebayo but swapped with Columbus Crew for Miguel Berry and went down 6-2 to Benteke.

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

His best season at Palace was his first in 2016/17 when he scored 15 league goals. 2020-2021 he scored 10 goals, but only four in 11 starts (25 games) last season. All of those goals came last autumn and while Odsonne Édouard has secured the starting striker job, Benteke has gone without a goal in his last 13 games, mostly as a substitute.

He scored 86 goals and provided 23 assists in his 280-game Premier League career.

Benteke has scored 18 goals in 45 appearances for Belgium and was last ranked FIFA No. 2 in March. He has played in two European championships.

What you need to know about 2022-2023 English Premier League season

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

Ochoa and Palsson have yet to debut.

While Ochoa and Palsson promise to help out defensively, United haven’t addressed key issues. The club (6-13-3) conceded a league-worst 47 goals and per Lost 3-0 to Charlotte FC on Wednesdaycenter Brandon Hines-Ike (20 starts) suffered a foot injury that will sideline him for the rest of the season.

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

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 September 2nd.

Benteke joins a large group of strikers. Berry and Ola Kamara have alternated starting at forward, while Michael Estrada and Nigel Robertha haven’t even been in uniform recently.

Neither Kamara (seven goals and one assist in 20 games) nor Estrada (four goals and four assists in 16 games) will be back next season. Kamara’s $1.5 million contract expires this winter, while Estrada is on loan from Mexican club Toluca.

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