At the end of the transfer window D.C. United, who previously added several international players (and a designated player), added their second designated player signing of the window, signing forward Christian Benteke from Premiere League side Crystal Palace. First reported by Steven Goff, the deal runs through the 2024 season with an option for 2025.
“Christian is a top player who has played at the highest level for a long time,” Wayne Rooney, D.C. United Head Coach, said in a team release. “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 was born in the Congo but began his professional career in Belgium when he started with Genk as a 16-year-old. He played in Belgium for several years at Liege and Kortrijk (where D.C. teammate Brendan Hines-Ike played before coming to D.C.), before Benteke moved to Aston Villa at 21. He scored 49 goals over 101 appearances before moving to Liverpool where he scored only ten goals over 42 appearances in his only year with the Reds, before moving to Crystal Palace in 2016 where he scored 37 goals over 177 appearances. Benteke has been regularly considered for the Belgium national team, scoring 18 goals in 45 appearances, including a March 2022 friendly win over Burkina Faso. While terms remain on the transfer, Goff reported Benteke, who turns 32 in December (and had seen rumored interest by Premiere League side Wolverhampton Wolves), is expected to earn more than the $3 million plus that his new coach Rooney earned as a player in 2019.
“We’ve been working hard over the last few weeks to bring in talent to bolster our squad,” Dave Kasper, D.C. United President of Soccer Operations, added. “Being able to bring in a world class player of Christian’s [Benteke] caliber is a huge testament to what’s going on behind the scenes at the club and our ability to draw top talent globally. We have been extremely active in the transfer window bringing in six players and since Wayne Rooney’s appointment as our Head Coach we believe we have made major steps in putting together a roster that can both make a push to finish this season strong and build a foundation for us moving forward.”
While Benteke is a recognizable name to many, he has slowed in form over the last several seasons, scoring 10 goals once since the 2017-18 season, and scored twice (in a win over Burley) over his last 15 games with Palace. His arrival to the team likely spells the end of Michael Estrada’s loan from Toluca, as outlets in Ecuador suggest his new destination will be sorted in the coming days.
“We are getting an elite striker in Christian [Benteke] and completing this signing on transfer deadline day is a huge accomplishment for the club,” Lucy Rushton, D.C. United General Manager, also added. “Christian is a dynamic forward who has scored goals at the highest levels. 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.”
Benteke will need to acquire his visa before joining the team for action, and the team likely has to announce several corresponding transactions to get under the international, senior, and overall roster limits in order to be compliant.