The Galaxy formally announced the signing of Jelle Van Damme on Tuesday, more than a week after the defender confirmed he was coming to Southern California by tweeting his good-byes to fans and teammates of Belgian club Standard Liege.
The Galaxy did not confirm details of Van Damme's contract but said he was acquired using targeted allocation money from Major League Soccer, a provision that will allow the team to pay him more than the league maximum of $457,500 for a non-designated player.
Van Damme is the first of as many as three top European players the Galaxy is expected to acquire. English defender Ashley Cole, 35, has already been released from his contract at Italian club Roma and is believed to have reached a deal with the Galaxy, pending league approval. Less certain is the status of Dutch midfielder Nigel de Jong, 31, whom the Galaxy has also been pursuing. De Jong's contract with Milan of Italy's Serie A does not expire until 2018.
The Galaxy began training camp last week and plays its first exhibition of the preseason Saturday against former Armenian champion FC Shirak.
Van Damme, who can play both on the back line and in the midfield, is expected to replace former national team defender Omar Gonzalez at center back. Gonzalez was transferred to Pachuca of the Mexican league last month.
“Jelle is an experienced, talented defender who will strengthen our back line,” Bruce Arena, the Galaxy's coach and general manager, said in a statement. “He joins our team with a wealth of experience playing at the highest levels of competition in the world. We look forward to adding him to our roster.”
Van Damme captained Standard Liege, for which he made 205 appearances since joining the team in 2011. In addition to Standard Liege, the defender has had stints with Germinal Beerschot (Belgium), Ajax (Netherlands), Southampton (England), Werder Bremen (Germany), Anderlecht (Belgium) and Wolverhampton Wanderers (England). He has also made 30 appearances for the Belgium national team.
While at Anderlecht he was involved in a controversial racial incident when U.S. national team defender Oguchi Onyewu, an African American then with Standard Liege, accused Van Damme of calling him a "dirty monkey." Onyewu sued Van Damme but the case was withdrawn after the players met and Van Damme apologized.
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