Andy Najar is in the process of becoming the first Major League Soccer homegrown player to transfer abroad. Having risen from the ranks of the D.C. United youth academy, MLS and United are finalizing an agreement to sell the Honduran teenager to Belgian league champion RSC Anderlecht, according to a league source. D.C. United did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Najar, 19, trained with Anderlecht in December and then returned to the club for a loan spell for the month of January. The Belgian club was intrigued with Najar from the start and had two transfer offers rejected before both clubs agreed to some final tweaks on Tuesday.
The final transfer fee isn’t clear but is expected to be somewhat less than FC Dallas midfielder Brek Shea’s $4 million move to Stoke City in the English Premier League. D.C. United stands to claim three-fourths of the Najar fee while the remainder goes to Major League Soccer, which owns all of its players’ contracts. Part of United’s claim could go directly back into the team’s youth academy.
Najar, meanwhile, is part of the Honduran squad that will face the U.S. national team in a World Cup qualifying matching next week in San Pedro Sula.
Born in Honduras, Najar came to the U.S. at age 13 and was originally discovered at Edison High School in Alexandria before joining D.C. United’s youth academy. After excelling for the under-16 and under-18 teams, he signed a first-team contract in March 2010 at the age of 17 and went on to be MLS rookie of the year, finishing the season with a team-high five goals and one assist in 26 matches.
Najar then had five goals and six assists in his second season in MLS in 2011, which began with a declaration that he was committed to the Honduran national team. He received his first call-up in September of that year. Last year he played a crucial role in helping the under-23 Honduran national team qualify for the Olympics and then represented his country in London.
The 2012 season in Major League Soccer was challenging one for Najar, who was forced to play his way back into the D.C. United starting lineup after returning from Olympic qualification. With D.C. suffering a number of injuries in defense, he also made a shift to the right side of United’s back line. The move was highly successful, making the most of Najar’s dynamic ball skills and work rate, even though it redefined the expectations for a player who was almost exclusively an outside midfielder. Had he returned to United for the 2013 season, Najar was expected to play right back. He has played on the wing for Anderlecht.
Najar’s season ended in ugly fashion when he was red carded for throwing a ball at referee Jair Marrufo in D.C. United’s first playoff game since 2007. He was suspended for the remainder of D.C. United’s playoff run.
Najar earned $150,000 in base salary last season ($180,800 guaranteed).