Toronto FC are clearly on the hunt for Designated Players and in recent weeks the rumour mill has heated up so much that it can be a bit hard to keep up with. There are a few names that have popped up so many times that it is becoming hard to ignore them. The big three names being linked with the club on nearly a daily basis of late are Alberto Gilardino, Fabio Quagliarella, and Jermain Defoe.
Here is the latest on all three transfer targets in what appears to be the order of likelihood.
Gilardino: The Genoa forward has been the most closely linked to Toronto FC with some solid numbers being presented in terms of transfer offer and potential salary. The latest to weigh in with sources was Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl who suggests Genoa are close to accepting a 5 million dollar offer for the forward.
Italian sources tell me Toronto FC and Genoa are close to agreeing on a $5 million transfer that would send Italian national team forward Alberto Gilardino to Toronto in August. Gilardino, 31, would make as much as $5 million a year with Toronto. He played in three World Cup 2014 qualifiers for Italy, scoring one goal, and his aspirations of playing in the World Cup mean he would wait until August to join MLS.
Gilardino's agent has been in New York and Toronto in the past week meeting with league and team officials. On Thursday I spoke to Toronto boss Tim Leiweke, who wouldn't confirm or deny those details, but he did say Toronto is aiming to sign two Designated Players who are reliable goal-scorers. Gazzetta dello Sport was the first outlet to note Toronto's interest in Gilardino.
His report moves the arrival date back to the summer which goes against some reports from earlier in the week which suggest that TFC could be set to throw enough money in the direction of Genoa to make a deal in January possible. The problem with the early arrival being that Genoa need the veteran forward's help this season to ensure they avoid relegation and the player still has aspirations of making Italy's World Cup squad.
We do know that Gilardino's agent was in Toronto over the weekend to meet with TFC's management team so at this point it is safe to say there is something to these reports. Now it is just a matter of if/when the deal will be completed and when the player would actually be arriving. It seems that there could be some official word sooner than January if the latest reports are accurate.
Defoe: The reports surrounding the English forward seem to be less concrete at this stage. There seems to be interest on Toronto FC's end as Nelsen indicated in a recent interview with Kristian Jack on TSN's website. The interest is there but the numbers seem to be more questionable in this case even though a number of outlets are picking up figures that originally ran in the Mirror.
The Mirror report does not suggest a potential transfer fee which will likely have to be large to convince Tottenham Hotspur to let Defoe go but they do suggest that Toronto could spend as much as £90,000-a-week in salary on the player which would make him easily the highest paid player in MLS history.
There is a good chance that Defoe leaves Spurs in the coming months as he has been relegated to a limited role in the squad with most of his appearances coming in cup competitions. He has been finding the back of the net in the Europa League but with Tottenham looking to add more attacking options in January there might not be a place for Defoe moving forward.
The question will be if TFC have what it takes to convince Defoe to ignore the other options that will likely come his way and make the move across the Atlantic and come to MLS. If that salary figure is anywhere near accurate then it might just be enough to tempt Defoe into making the move. Timing will again be the question as Defoe is another player who could be selected for the World Cup and would probably prefer to stay in England to increase his chances of that happening.
Quagliarella: This one seems to have the least traction of the bunch at this point in time. There are no reported numbers of potential offers at this stage but what we do have is a fair bit of talk from his own agent. His agent, Beppe Bozzo, was in New York and Toronto over the weekend trying to work on deals to bring his clients Quagliarella and Gilardino to MLS. Upon his return home he was quoted as saying, "It's true, Toronto FC have expressed an interest in him, as well as a number of other MLS sides."
It seems this is another move that would have to wait until next summer though as he agent also indicated that the forward is focused on Juventus at this stage and they would see what happens next summer. He will also certainly draw interest from plenty of clubs as was the case this past summer when he nearly left Juventus with several clubs being closely linked to acquiring his service.
For now Quags seems to be a potential MLS target but not a concrete Toronto FC target. With the club only capable of adding two designated players it would make sense that they are only making offers on two of these three players which could mean that Quags is one of a number of potential backup plans should either of the primary targets fall through. Problem is that other MLS teams will probably also be interested in the player and would jump at the chance to sign a talent like Quagliarella.