Former England captain Wayne Rooney will join Championship club Derby County as a player-coach in January from MLS side DC United.
The 33-year-old forward, who is Manchester United and England’s all-time record goalscorer, will join the Rams on an initial 18-month contract.
He signed for Washington-based DC from Everton in July 2018 and has scored 23 goals in 41 league games.
“I’m sure I can make a big contribution,” said Rooney.
Rooney has agreed to join Derby despite having more than two seasons left on his deal with DC United.
“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,” he added.
“I am very excited about the opportunity Derby County have provided me with. I am looking forward to joining [Derby manager] Phillip Cocu, his coaching staff and the first-team squad from the start of January.
“I am equally excited to begin my coaching career at Derby County, working with both the first team and academy.
Derby, who started their season with a 2-1 win at Huddersfield on Monday, are under the management of former Netherlands midfielder Cocu after Rooney’s former England team-mate Frank Lampard left for Chelsea last month.
Cocu described Rooney’s arrival as an “exciting prospect” and has “no doubt he will have a positive impact right across the club”.
“The inspiration and motivation this can generate is massive for all of our players from the first team right through to the youngsters in the academy,” said Cocu.
“To have a player with his leadership, skill, experience, character and work ethic will be huge for us.”
‘A player first and foremost’
As they announced the deal, Derby said Rooney would “continue to develop his coaching credentials in preparation for a potential managerial career”.
However, Rams chairman Mel Morris insisted the England legend would “first and foremost” be joining the club as a player.
“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,” he said.
“This is clearly an exciting signing for us. On the back of Wayne joining, we have just been offered a record-breaking sponsorship deal with our principal shirt sponsor.”
A stepping stone towards management?
Rooney suggested recently he was thinking about moving into coaching.
Speaking about his managerial aspirations at last week’s MLS All-Stars match, he said: “It’s something I want to stay involved in; [my coaching badges] are going well.
“I’m obviously still a player and I want to continue to play. When the time is right I can go into coaching or management.”
His move to Derby, albeit alongside continuing his playing career, means he is the sixth member of England’s Euro 2004 squad to take their first steps in coaching or management in the past 15 months.
John Terry moved into coaching with Aston Villa in October 2018 and helped the club back to the Premier League with victory over Lampard’s Rams at Wembley.
The life and times of Rooney
Rooney made his professional debut for boyhood club Everton in August 2002 aged just 16 and became the Premier League’s youngest scorer with a superb long-range goal against Arsenal before his 17th birthday.
After a strong Euro 2004 he moved to Manchester United for £26m, then a world-record fee for a teenager.
During 13 years with United he won the Premier League five times, the Champions League, the FA Cup and three League Cups.
His time with England was relatively less successful, although he did break Sir Bobby Charlton’s long-standing record record of 49 goals before retiring from international football in August 2017.
He made a farewell appearance for the Three Lions against the United States in a friendly in November 2018 to finish with 53 goals in 120 appearances.
Rooney left Old Trafford in July 2017 to return to the Toffees on a two-year deal but moved to America after just one season.
He is the second-highest goalscorer in Premier League history, with 208 goals.