A few days after it was initially reported in Europe, D.C. United announced that Andy Najar has secured a training stint with RSC Anderlecht in Belgium through the end of the season.
Najar, 19, is coming off a third strong season in MLS even though it ended poorly and prematurely when he chucked a ball at referee Jair Marrufo and got himself a red card and a suspension for United’s final three playoff games. The year started with Najar helping the Honduran under-23 national team get to the London Olympics, where he also played solidly.
The former 2010 MLS rookie of the year finished 2012 with four assists in 25 MLS games (22 starts), making a startling successful transition to right back midway through the season. The organization and Najar himself fully expect that he’ll play that position instead of on the wing when the 2013 season begins.
But before that, it’s worth having a quick look at what is going on in Belgium. In recent years, these kinds of training trips have become common practice for younger MLS players with great potential. Najar trained with Tottenham Hotspur last season, just down the road in England from West Bromwich Albion, where D.C. goalkeeper Bill Hamid had his own two-week visit. (By the way, no training deal for Hamid yet? Also curious.)
Anderlecht is the home of U.S. midfielder Sacha Kljestan and has had two current MLS players from Honduras in its ranks in the past: Seattle’s Mario Martinez and San Jose’s Victor Bernardez.
So why did it take so long for everything to become official this time around, especially if Najar has been there since the beginning of the week?
There’s certainly the chance that Anderlecht was considering Najar’s arrival as more than just a chance for him to be in practice. That’s the way it was reported in Belgium. While training stints can often be misconstrued for something more, it could be that discussions about what “more” might be broke down and the two sides settled on the simpler training visit instead. There are many issues at stake in these situations, including insurance and compensation.
[UPDATE This from D.C. United general manager Dave Kasper: "It was mainly the insurance element. We wanted to make sure that we were covered in case of an injury. We were also discussing the possibility of a loan situation, but it never materialized in the end. Those things took some time to get through."
As for whether the loan deal could resurface?
"It’s possible, but at this point we’re just expecting him to train for a couple weeks and be back in January."
Hamid could also have a training stint later this month or more likely in early January.]
The fact is, trials are gateways to loans, and a loan is the first step toward a transfer, and it’s no secret that Najar has long harbored a desire to jump to Europe.
With a couple of years left on his contract, this is a good time for him to investigate that possibility. For now, he’s just training. But it’ll be interesting to see if anything more develops with Anderlecht before his time there is up.