Wayne Rooney is headed back to England.
After this MLS season concludes, Rooney will leave D.C. United to become a player-coach with second-tier English side Derby County, the teams announced Tuesday. The agreement will allow Rooney to be a player and assistant coach starting this winter.
The decision was prompted by his wife’s desire to live in England again and be closer to their family, according to The Washington Post. Rooney, his wife and their four children had been living in Bethesda, Md., after growing up and living in the Manchester-Liverpool area.
“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,” United co-chairmen Steve Kaplan and Jason Levien 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.”
Rooney joined D.C. United after 18 legendary seasons in the Premier League, mostly with Manchester United. He is the record goal scorer for Manchester United and the English National Team, and his 208 goals rank second-most in league history. Rooney lifted the Premier League trophy five times in his 14 years with the Red Devils, and added a Champions League title for good measure.
Rooney’s stint in the United States has been a great success – he has 11 goals and six assists in 23 appearances this season. When he arrived in D.C. last season, United were last in the Eastern Conference, but they finished the season with 12 wins in their last 19 games under his stewardship, finishing in fourth place and securing a spot in the playoffs. United currently sits in fourth place, poised for another playoff run.
Rooney’s contract, which will earn him a team-record $3.5 million in base salary this season, was due to run through the 2021 season. Rooney, 33, will see his time in the MLS last just 18 months, however.
“I remain fully focused on giving my all for the team for the rest of this season and repaying the support shown by the black-and-red faithful by hopefully delivering an MLS Cup to Audi Field,” Rooney said in a statement. “My time in Major League Soccer is something I will always be proud of. While the decision to move home was a tough one, family is everything to us and we make this change to be closer to the ones we love back in England.”
Derby County plays in the Championship – the second-division of English soccer. They’ve been stuck in the division for 12 years, and will be looking to be promoted to the Premier League with Rooney’s addition. He will play for and assist coach Phillip Cocu.
“The opportunity to go back home and start the next step of my career in coaching was the factor that made my mind up,” Rooney said. “I would like to thank everyone at D.C. United for the incredible support my family and I have received over my two seasons at the club.”