DC United signs Premier League striker Christian Benteke

Crystal Palace’s Christian Benteke, right, and Newcastle’s Emil Krafth battle for the ball during the English Premier League soccer match at Selhurst Park in London, Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Steve Luciano)

D.C. United has made a significant move at the end of the MLS transfer deadline, signing Christian Benteke from English Premier League side Crystal Palace as its third designated player, the club announced Friday afternoon.

Benteke, 31, will join on a permanent transfer, requiring United to pay a transfer fee. He signed a two-and-a-half-year deal through 2024 with a club option in 2025, club officials said in a news release. He can start playing with his new club once he receives his work visa.

“Christian is a top player who has played at the highest level for a long time,” head coach Wayne Rooney said in a statement. “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.”

The Washington Post, which first reported the Black and Red’s pursuit of Benteke, reports that the Belgian striker will be the highest paid player in club history, surpassing Rooney’s $3.5 million deal in 2019.

He becomes United’s third designated player — high-priced talents whose wages don’t entirely count against a team’s salary cap — joining attacker Taxi Fountas and midfielder Victor Pálsson. 

Benteke spent the last 10 seasons in the English Premier League with multiple clubs, including Aston Villa, Liverpool, and Crystal Palace. In those seasons, he scored 86 goals and recorded 23 assists in 280 Premier League Appearances.

“Christian is a dynamic forward who has scored goals at the highest levels,” general manager Lucy Rushton said in a statement. “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. We are excited to get Christian integrated with the team so he can make an immediate impact on the field in the final stretch of the season.”

United hopes that he will bring his scoring prowess to its offense. Fountas, added in May, has scored 11 goals, accounting for almost 40% of D.C.’s goals this season (28). The next player closest to him is striker Ola Kamara with seven goals, but he has been generally used as a substitute. 

In his postgame news conference Wednesday after losing 3-0 in Charlotte, Rooney said United was looking to add one more player before the transfer window closed. Club officials had been negotiating for about a week, with talks progressing during D.C.’s match. 

Benteke becomes United’s sixth summer signing, joining striker Miguel Berry, winger Martín Rodríguez, midfielder Ravel Morrison, goalkeeper David Ochoa and Pálsson.

During Rooney’s introductory news conference, club officials said they would be in “investment mode” and spend more on players to aid Rooney in his coaching efforts. It is a philosophy change compared to previous seasons, in which D.C.’s ownership opted to sign lesser-known and cheaper talents in hopes of selling them in the future. 

The question remains if the summer additions will be enough to salvage the current season. United sits in last place (6-13-3, 21 points) in the Eastern Conference with 12 matches remaining. However, D.C. will look to bounce back after the Charlotte loss Saturday night against its Atlantic Cup rivals, the New York Red Bulls. 

José Umaña

José Umaña is a digital editor for WTOP. He’s been working as a journalist for almost a decade, covering local news, education and sports. His work has appeared in The Prince George’s Sentinel, The Montgomery Sentinel, Orlando Sentinel, PressBox and The Diamondback.

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