Andy Najar on Wednesday became the first homegrown player in MLS history to earn a transfer abroad, completing a meteoric journey that in three years took him from D.C. United’s youth academy to Belgian champion RSC Anderlecht.
Najar, who began training with Anderlecht in December before going on loan earlier this month, is joining the club on a full-time basis after MLS agreed to sell the 19-year-old Honduran midfielder. United will collect three-fourths of the fee paid to the league instead of the typical two-thirds because Najar is a homegrown player.
“It has been very rewarding to watch Andy grow and develop into becoming the special player that he is,” said United general manager Dave Kasper in a statement. “This transfer is a testament to the hard work of our Academy staff, to [coach Ben Olsen] and his staff for their patience and vision, and to the MLS Homegrown Player initiative. We wish Andy all of the success in the world and we look forward to watching his career blossom.”
Signed to United’s first team in March 2010 — during his junior year in high school — out of the club’s youth setup, the flashy winger led United with five goals that season en route to claiming team MVP and league Rookie of the Year honors. After compiling five goals and six assists in his sophomore campaign, Najar added four assists during a 2012 season that saw him become an overlapping right back.
“I would like to thank everyone connected to the club for everything that has been done to help me and my family since I joined the academy years ago,” Najar wrote in an open letter. “The staff at D.C. United has done more than I could have ever asked to get me to this point in my career, and it is with great pride that I tell people D.C. United made me the man I am today.”
Known for dazzling footwork and vision, as well as strength on the ball that belies his 5-foot-7, 150-pound frame, Najar represented Honduras this past summer at the London Olympics, starting three of his side’s four matches.
Before traveling to London, Najar noted via a translator, “It’s a great opportunity to showcase my skills and maybe get to Europe, which would be a dream of mine.”
Najar will join U.S. midfielder Sacha Kljestan, formerly of MLS side Chivas USA, at Anderlecht, which competed this past fall in the group stage of the prestigious UEFA Champions League.
With Najar’s exit, veteran Robbie Russell and third-year player Chris Korb will compete for the starting right back spot, while Rookie of the Year finalist Nick DeLeon is now United’s only natural option on the right side of midfield.
“Andy is an extremely hard player to replace with our group,” Olsen said, “but I’m excited for him and the opportunity he has in front of him.”