August 7 – Former England captain Wayne Rooney is leaving Major League Soccer in the United States after less than two seasons to return to play in England with second-tier Derby County where he will working under manager Phillip Cocu.
Rooney’s arrival in the US was given maximum publicity but despite the fanfare, he is turning his back on the MLS to launch his managerial career. He had another two years remaining on the contract with D.C. United after joining from Everton in 2018.
The 33-year-old will remain at D.C. United until the end of the season before joining Derby as player-coach from January. Rooney has signed an 18-month contract that can be extended until the end of the 2021-22 season.
“I am very excited about the opportunity that Derby County have provided me with,” said Rooney, record goal scorer for Manchester United and England. “I am excited to begin my coaching career at Derby County working with both the first team and academy.”
“The opportunity to come back to England and play but also to take up a coaching role and work under Phillip was too great for me to turn down. There were other clubs making offers and enquiring about me but I made the decision to come here and that was it, I wasn’t going to go back on my decision.”
D.C. United co-chairmen Steve Kaplan and Jason Levien hid their disappointment with commendable diplomacy.
“After speaking to Wayne and understanding his difficult situation of being so far away from his family, we have accepted that this is the best decision for all parties,” they said in a statement. “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.”
D.C. United’s loss is clearly Derby’s gain. “Wayne Rooney is an extremely talented and top-class footballer,” said Cocu. “His credentials speak for themselves. To have a player with his leadership, skill, experience, character and work ethic will be huge for us.”
D.C. United are fourth in the MLS Eastern Conference. The top seven clubs from each conference qualify for the playoffs.
“It’s only fair to DC United (to move in January). They’ve been fantastic to me,” Rooney said. “We’re in a good position in the league and with nine games left of the season I think it would be disrespectful to them if I didn’t finish the season and try and help us get into the playoff spots and win a trophy.”
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