- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Wayne Rooney’s days in Major League Soccer are numbered, perhaps sooner than many soccer fans expected.

Rooney, who has played for D.C. United for 13 months, will join the English club Derby County F.C. in a player-coach role after he finishes the current MLS season.

Rooney originally signed a 3½-year contract with D.C. but will only play 1½ seasons for the club. Derby County, which plays in the second tier of English soccer, offered him a job as both a player and an assistant coach.

United’s regular season ends Oct. 6, after which the club is likely to compete in the MLS playoffs.

“I remain fully focused on giving my all for the team for the rest of this season and repaying the support shown by the Black-and-Red faithful by hopefully delivering an MLS Cup to Audi Field,” Rooney said in a statement. “My time in Major League Soccer is something I will always be proud of. The supporters in the Screaming Eagles, Barra Brava and District Ultras have made my time in America so enjoyable.

“While the decision to move home was a tough one, family is everything to us and we make this change to be closer to the ones we love back in England. The opportunity to go back home and start the next step of my career in coaching was the factor that made my mind up. I would like to thank everyone at D.C. United for the incredible support my family and I have received over my two seasons at the club.”

In an interview in England that he posted on Twitter, Rooney added that “it’s the right time for me to make this step.”

“I’m very excited obviously to be playing back in England, of course, but also to have the opportunity to be part of the coaching staff as well and see how Phillip (Cocu, Derby’s manager) works and learn from that as well,” Rooney said.

Reports said United did not charge Derby County a transfer fee to acquire Rooney. Tabloids in England reported that Rooney will make 100,000 Euros a week and wear jersey No. 32, a reference to Derby County’s primary sponsor, the online casino 32 Red.

European soccer stars who come to the U.S. to wrap up their playing careers rarely get an opportunity to return to Europe. Thierry Henry finished his career with New York Red Bulls, and active players like Zlatan Ibrahimovic seem likely to retire after playing with their MLS clubs. 

But in another case, David Beckham, Rooney’s former English national team teammate, briefly played for Paris Saint-Germain after his famous stint with LA Galaxy.

Rooney will turn 34 later this year, but that hasn’t slowed him down from being one of the best forwards in MLS. He is tied for fifth in the league with 11 goals, including five game-winning goals, plus has seven assists.

In a statement sent out by the team, United cochairmen Steve Kaplan and Jason Levien said that with Rooney being so far from home, “we have accepted that this is the best decision for all parties.”

Wayne is an exceptional leader and one of the most iconic players to play the game so we look forward to his continued contributions to the team this season,” the statement read.

While Rooney has one foot out the door, rumors also began Tuesday that United was in talks with another European star in the back half of his career: Mesut Ozil, a 30-year-old German midfielder for Arsenal. The “transfer window” for MLS teams closes Wednesday.

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