Wayne Rooney
Wayne Rooney has agreed to leave MLS franchise D.C. United for English Championship club Derby County for a player-coach role. | Photo by Darren STAPLES / AFP

Wayne Rooney has agreed to leave MLS franchise D.C. United for English Championship club Derby County. England’s record goalscorer is expected to take up a player-coach role in the second tier of English football. The 33-year-old moved to the MLS in June 2018 from Premier League side Everton. He reportedly signed a two-and-a-half-year deal worth $13 million with D.C.

Rooney has already scored 25 goals in 45 appearances for the Washington franchise including this stunner vs. Orlando City. With two seasons still left in his current contract, the former Manchester United captain feels it’s time to move on. However, the move across the Atlantic will not be finalized until January 2020. Fans still have a chance to see him in action at least for the remainder of the current season.

The Washington Post reports that D.C. United will not receive any transfer fees for the deal. But the move will help clear a hefty contract off its books. Rooney released a personal statement confirming his decision, reading in part:

“I must also take this opportunity to thank D.C. United, their owners, executives, and supporters who have been superb to work with. I want them to know that I will give my all in support of our push for the play-offs.”

Is Wayne Rooney’s Decision a Slap in the Face for MLS?

The simple answer is NO, and here is why. Since its inception in 1996, the MLS has grown strength to strength. Wayne Rooney was one of the many big-name players to join the league. David Beckham, Thierry Henry, Zlatan Ibrahimović and others have also signed contracts with MLS sides.

But Rooney was easily one of the highest-paid players in the MLS. According to the deal he signed with D.C., the former Manchester United forward was to get $2.7 million a year in salary. He was also supposed to get another $5 million through guarantees tied to his image rights and other commercial engagements.

So, why leave such a lucrative deal for a second-tier side in England? Rooney’s decision to join Derby has everything to do with his desire to start coaching and nothing to do with the MLS. His statement announcing his departure from D.C. clearly emphasized this point. Rooney said:

“I am equally excited to begin my coaching career at Derby County working with both the first team and Academy.”

Rooney also told Sky Sports in June that he’s been taking steps to acquire the required FA coaching badges. A move to Derby County specifically is also not by chance. The Championship side came agonizingly close to promotion last season under the stewardship of Frank Lampard, Rooney’s former England teammate.

Lampard has since moved on to manage Premier League heavy hitter Chelsea. Derby could offer an entry point for Wayne Rooney to start his managerial career. Drawing inspiration from Lampard’s success story at the club, it looks like Derby is the right place to start.

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