In a move that is catching all of us by surprise this morning, D.C. United is rumored to be close to signing Andriy Shevchenko via transfer. The 35-year old Ukrainian forward is out of contract after spending his last two seasons at Dynamo Kiev, and could be on his way to MLS.
According to Ashley Gray, a football journalist in Eastern Europe, Shevchenko may have already agreed to join D.C. United. He is said to be coming to MLS on a free transfer, and will earn a salary similar to what Thierry Henry is making with the New York Red Bulls. That would mean Shevchenko's contract would be in the ballpark of $5,000,000 per season, making him the highest-paid player in United history if signed.
Shevchenko has had a long and illustrious career in Europe, playing with some of the largest clubs in the world. Averaging roughly 0.5 goals per game throughout his entire career, Shevchenko scored 127 goals in eight seasons with AC Milan before moving on to Chelsea, and then returning to Dynamo Kyiv where his career began. Shevchenko has been a mainstay with the Ukrainian national team as well. He played in the 2006 World Cup, and burst on the scene again just last month with two goals against Sweden in Euro 2012. Shevchenko also happens to be the third highest-scorer in Champions League history. No big deal, right?
This isn't the first time that Shevchenko has been connected to United, but those connections were always vague in the past - sure his wife is from the D.C. area, but does that really matter? If true, the move will come as a surprise to United fans, as the team currently sits tied for first place in the Eastern Conference with 30 points, and tied for the league lead in goals scored with 31. With defending league MVP Dwayne De Rosario requiring a spot in the lineup, with designated players Hamdi Salihi and Branko Boskovic both rounding into form, and with forwards Chris Pontius and Maicon Santos each having career years, it will be difficult for head coach Ben Olsen to work Shevchenko into his starting 11. And yet a player with Shevchenko's skills and resume will undoubtedly still find a way to earn his way onto the field.
The Shevchenko rumors come at a time when D.C. United is poised to add new investors to the team's ownership group, giving more financial freedom to the most storied franchise in MLS history. After four straight seasons outside the MLS playoffs, Shevchenko could help United return to its glory days, to the days when championships were expected and were accomplished.