Wayne Rooney signs for Derby County

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Wayne Rooney has signed with Derby County. Yes. You read that correctly.

Rooney, 33, has signed an initial 18-month contract with the English second-tier team in a player-coach role, as he will play out the rest of the Major League Soccer season and arrive at Derby on January 1. There is an option to extend the contract by a further year.

England’s all-time leading goalscorer flew to the UK overnight and was spotted at London’s Heathrow airport before heading to Derby. Rooney was then seen at Derby’s training ground in the UK ahead of finalizing his shock move from D.C. United.

Speaking about his return to England, Rooney thanked D.C. United’s owners for allowing the move to happen.

“I am very excited about the opportunity that Derby County have provided me with,” Rooney said. “I am looking forward to joining Phillip Cocu, his coaching staff and the first-team squad from the start of January. I am sure I can make a big contribution and can’t wait to meet everyone, especially the supporters. I am equally excited to begin my coaching career at Derby County working with both the first team and Academy. I must also take this opportunity to thank DC United, their owners, executives and supporters who have been superb to work with. I want them to know that I will give my all in support of our push for the play-offs.”

D.C. United’s chairmen revealed that Rooney requested the move back to England duo to his family not settling in the USA following his move last summer.

“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,” Steve Kaplan and Jason Levien, D.C. United Co-Chairmen said.

Ola Kamara is set to replace Rooney, with the Norwegian international and former LA Galaxy star to head back to MLS from China for a transfer fee in the region of $2.5 million.

Derby owner Mel Morris spoke about another huge coup for the Rams, which follows the hiring of Frank Lampard last season before he moved on to coach Chelsea, then getting in Dutch legend Phillip Cocu to replace him.

“This is clearly an exciting signing for us, and Wayne’s presence will further enhance the club’s standing and its ability to perform both on and off the pitch. To have Wayne Rooney as a player, and equally as an aspiring coach, is incredible and I can only imagine the buzz this will generate amongst our supporters at home and internationally. First and foremost, Wayne is joining us as a player but he will also have coaching responsibilities too, particularly around the development of our younger players progressing towards the first-team from our Academy, as he looks to gain his relevant qualifications for a future coaching and management career. I would like to express a sincere thanks to DC United for their professionalism throughout this process. We wish them every success for the remainder of their season.”

This is  a huge blow for DCU’s hopes of winning the Eastern Conference this season and making a splash in the playoffs.

Rooney’s move to MLS was scrutinized by many after his minutes dwindled at both Man United and Everton over the past few seasons, but he’s been a star.

From goals inside his own half to stunning individual displays, Rooney has scored 25 goals in 45 appearances for D.C. United and dragged them from last in the East last season to the playoffs.

But the lure of returning to England to start his coaching career was too strong, as he’s spoken about a desire to coach on many occasions and he’ll be following in the footsteps of Lampard, John Terry, Steven Gerrard and others from England’s so-called ‘Golden Generation’ of players.