WASHINGTON, D.C. — He ran himself ragged over the course of a long, hard first season, but MLS Rookie of the Year Andy Najar apparently still has enough gas in his tank to embark on a training stint with a top European club this winter.
The destination and details are still being hashed out, and Najar won’t let it interfere with his plans for a quiet holiday season at his family’s home in northern Virginia. But it seems possible that D.C. United’s prized youngster will spend two to three weeks working out with a club in Spain or England in early December to get a taste of life at his profession’s highest level.
“We are exploring a special opportunity for him to go someplace,” DC general manager Dave Kasper said on Wednesday. "Not just any club, but someplace that he could really benefit from the experience.”
All year his coaches and teammates have marveled at Najar’s burning – and seemingly boundless – desire to play the game and he sounds eager to continue his efforts, even as those around him stress the importance of avoiding premature wear on his 17-year-old body.
“Yeah, I’m good,” Najar said of a potential European trip. “I’m in shape, and just ready for a team who wants me to go to practice with them.”
Those involved in the process have tamped down early speculation around the identity of the hosting club, with the likes of Spanish giants Real Madrid reported as potential candidates. But the facilities and atmosphere of a high-profile side are seen as an important aspect in deriving the maximum benefit from the visit. Najar’s age rules out the possibility of his actually seeing match action like Landon Donovan, David Beckham and other previous MLS loanees.
United president Kevin Payne downplayed the importance of such training stints, and made it clear that such a trip would have to be approved by the incoming head coach – assuming the new boss arrives before the arrangement is finalized.
But the final decision lies with Najar.
“We’ll see," Payne said. "If he wants to go train a little bit with a club elsewhere, that’s entirely up to him. We don’t look to that as some means of ratifying the value of our players. I could care less if he goes and trains with a team in Europe. If he wants to do it and if our coaches think that will help him in the offseason, great.
“But it’s not like some badge of honor like some people want to act like it is, that he goes and trains in London or some other capital in Europe.”