“Christian is a top player who has played at the highest level for a long time,” said Rooney, who faced Benteke several times during his playing career with Manchester United and Everton. “His experience and ability to score goals and help the team will be invaluable. It’s exciting for the team and myself to get him in and playing. He will make a huge difference.”
Benteke, 31, will become the highest-paid player in club history, two people familiar with the terms said. His salary will surpass Rooney’s $3.5 million pact in 2019, his second and final season as a United player.
Benteke signed through the 2024 season, and the club holds an option for 2025.
He will fill United’s third and final slot for high-end designated players, joining Greek attacker Taxi Fountas and Icelandic defensive midfielder Victor Palsson.
United also paid an undisclosed transfer fee, estimated to be worth multimillions, to Crystal Palace, Benteke’s club 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’s expected to visit Washington as early as next week to meet his new teammates, find housing and get acclimated to the weather.
“His strength and power will make him a focal point of our team and his ability to link up play will be a valuable asset to us,” United General Manager Lucy Rushton said in a statement. “We are excited to get Christian integrated with the team so he can make an immediate impact.”
Dave Kasper, United’s president of soccer operations, said in an interview the club began engaging with Benteke’s representatives seven to 10 days ago. At first, he said, the outlook seemed bleak because of 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.
In addition, Kasper said, Rooney spoke to Benteke — an interaction that, although they didn’t know each other very well, helped move the process along. “That played a big role in bringing him to the club,” Kasper said.
In hiring Rooney last month, United was counting on the former English superstar using his status in the sport to help attract players to Washington.
Among Rooney’s top priorities was signing a big forward. United didn’t get anywhere with Luton Town’s 6-foot-4 Elijah Adebayo but traded with the Columbus Crew for 6-3 Miguel Berry and landed 6-2 Benteke.
Benteke was once one of the highest-valued strikers in Europe. Liverpool paid Aston Villa $51 million for the Belgian in 2015, and a year later,…
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