At this point it should come as a surprise to no one that Jermain Defoe will be a Toronto FC player by the time the 2014 MLS season kicks off. The club has been closely linked to the Tottenham Hotspur and England forward for over a month now and have been negotiating with the player in club to work out a deal that would see him transferred in January but remain with the London club until March when the MLS season starts.
The deal has been reported to be on the verge of completion for a while now according to a number of media outlets but it seems the Toronto Sun are the first to go on the record calling it a done deal. In an article made available online Friday night and in print on Saturday morning, Kurt Larson reports that the club have a deal in place with Tottenham that includes a transfer fee that could be as high as $10 million along with $150,000 per week for the player (that works out to $7.8 million per year).
Larson's report does not indicate when the player will arrive in Toronto, leaving it open for the move to take place after the World Cup, but based on other reports it seems that Defoe will be looking to start the season in MLS in hopes that getting regular playing time will increase his chances of making the England squad next summer. Getting the deal in place by the start of January and having the player arrive in Toronto for the start of the season would certainly be a major boost for a team that is suddenly starting to look like a contender.
The good news for TFC may come in the form of Defoe actually getting more minutes for Spurs in recent weeks. If he continues to get time in the lineup for Andre Villas-Boas it will hopefully lead to him finding his scoring touch in the league and arriving in Toronto on good form to start the season, as a hot start will be crucial if he is going to miss time for the World Cup.
There is no time frame for when fans can expect to see Defoe holding up a shirt and not smiling for the cameras so there will of course be some doubt among fans who have been fooled before by deals that were supposedly done and then never came to pass (Diego Forlan ring a bell?).
When Defoe does arrive in Toronto all of the credit will basically have to go to one man. Tim Leiweke may have come into MLSE with a lot of big talk but when it comes to TFC he has also been delivering on a lot of those promises. The club has undergone a house cleaning with Ryan Nelsen being one of the few remaining holdovers from the previous regimes and now they are track to be competitive in 2014 and potentially deliver on that promise of a playoff spot.
Leiweke was the only man who was going to be able to convince MLSE's head honchos that the soccer team that has often been a bit of an afterthought is actually worth investing this kind of money in. No MLS team has ever spent as much on a single player as TFC are set to spend on Defoe. That is just how Big Tim works though as he understands that sometimes you have to spend big to make the kind of progress that is needed to increase profits down the road. Just spinning the tires like all of MLSE's franchises have done in recent years would not be enough.
It is still over a week until Christmas, and the Defoe deal is not confirmed by the club, but already Toronto FC's roster for the 2014 season is starting to become clear. There are still a few holes that will need to be addressed, but the biggest pieces of the puzzle are starting to fall in place. If you add Defoe to the current roster it already looks like a playoff team in the Eastern Conference but a few more smart moves and the bar could be raised even higher.
Given how the part seven years have gone for TFC it almost seems crazy to have an article out this far in advance of a season that is talking so optimistically about the way things are going for the club. The problem is that I actually do feel this optimistic that even if they have not played a single game it is nice to see TFC finally doing things the right way and making moves that make sense.
When Defoe is officially signed where do you think he will rank in terms of the biggest transfers in MLS history? It will certainly be the most expensive but is he the biggest name to ever come to the league?