D.C. United acquires Christian Benteke from Premier League’s Crystal Palace

D.C. United acquires Christian Benteke from Premier League’s Crystal Palace

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DC United acquired Belgian striker Christian Benteke from Crystal Palace on Friday, bringing in a 10-year Premier League veteran as the MLS transfer and trade window closed and the London club prepared to kick off your season.

The deal closed on Thursday night, hours before MLS’s midnight deadline and a day before Palace’s opener against Arsenal, giving new manager Wayne Rooney and the bottom-place organization their further progress in the summer squad.

“Christian is a great player who has played at the highest level for a long time,” said Rooney, who has faced Benteke several times during his playing career with Manchester United and Everton. “His experience and his ability to score goals and help the team will be invaluable. He is exciting for the team and for me to come in and play. He will make a big difference.”

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

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

He will fill United’s third and final slot for senior designated players, joining Greek attacker Taxi Fountas and Icelandic defensive midfielder Victor Palsson.

United also paid an undisclosed transfer fee, estimated at several million, to Crystal Palace, Benteke’s club for the past six seasons.

He is not allowed to play in MLS until his work visa is approved, a process that typically takes at least two weeks, but he is expected to visit Washington next week to meet his new teammates, find lodging and acclimate to the climate. .

Wayne Rooney is a megastar. More importantly, he wants to train.

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

Dave Kasper, United’s president of soccer operations, said in an interview that the club began interacting with Benteke’s representatives seven to 10 days ago. At first, he said, the outlook seemed bleak due to high financial demands.

But Kasper said he worked closely with Benteke’s agent, Kismet Eris, and the respective owners negotiated the transfer fee and other considerations.

Also, Kasper said, Rooney spoke with Benteke, an interaction that, while they didn’t know each other very well, helped move the process forward. “That played a big part in bringing him to the club,” Kasper said.

By signing Rooney last month, United were counting on the former England superstar using his status in the sport to help attract players to Washington.

Among Rooney’s top priorities was signing a top striker. United got nowhere with Luton Town’s 6-foot-4 Elijah Adebayo, but traded with the Columbus Crew for Miguel Berry 6-3 and landed 6-2 Benteke.

Benteke was once one of the highest rated strikers in Europe. Liverpool paid Aston Villa $51 million for the Belgian in 2015 and, a year later, Palace acquired him from the Reds for $34 million.

His best season with Palace was his first, 2016-17, when he scored 15 league goals. He scored 10 in 2020-21, but just four in 11 starts (25 appearances) last season. All of those goals came last fall, and while Odsonne Édouard secured the starting job at striker, Benteke failed to score in his last 13 appearances, most of them as a substitute.

In his 280-match Premier League career, he had 86 goals and 23 assists.

With the Belgian national team, Benteke has scored 18 goals in 45 games, and his last appearance for the second-ranked FIFA team was in March. He has played in two European Championships.

What to know about the 2022-23 season of the English Premier League

Benteke is United’s latest addition during the summer window, joining Berry, goalkeeper 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 not yet debuted.

While Ochoa and Palsson promise to help the defensive cause, United did not address the backline issues. The club (6-13-3) has conceded a league-worst 47 goals, and during Wednesday’s 3-0 loss to Charlotte FC, central defender Brendan Hines-Ike (20 starts) suffered an injury to his the foot that is expected to leave out the rest. it’s from the season

United lack depth at all baseline positions. Sami Guediri, who began the year at second-tier Loudoun United, has started at left-back. Right back Andy Najar, a regular starter for much of the year, has been relegated to a backup role under Rooney; Chris Odoi-Atsem has been a starter.

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 can sign domestic and international free agents until the roster freezes Sept. 2.

Benteke joins a packed group of forwards. Berry and Ola Kamara have alternated as starters up front while Michael Estrada and Nigel Robertha haven’t even been in uniform lately.

Neither Kamara (seven goals and one assist in 20 appearances) nor Estrada (four goals and four assists in 16 appearances) are expected to return next season. Kamara’s $1.5 million contract expires this winter, and Estrada is on loan from Mexican club Toluca.

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