Could it be that Toronto FC fans have seen Torsten Frings play his final game for the club? The club confirmed this morning that the German midfielder had left the preseason camp in Orlando to continue rehabbing back in Toronto. That is all well and good but it is the fact that they said he is returning to Toronto to attend to personal matters that has gotten fans worried that he may be on the way out.
#TFC training update: Torsten Frings has returned to Toronto to deal with personal matters. He will continue to rehab in Toronto.— Toronto FC (@torontofc) February 15, 2013
The tweet in and of itself would not have been enough to start the rumour mill churning if it had not been for some very pointed comments from club president Kevin Payne a few weeks back. Payne made it clear that the club was at the very least considering the idea of making use of the option to buy out one player's contract which MLS provides. It led to speculation that the club could be looking to buy out a number of different players who did not necessarily represent the best values.
The front of the line at the time was want-away forward Eric Hassli but now that he is with FC Dallas the list was narrowed down. While some speculated that the club could look to buy out the injured Danny Koevermans rather than hoping he can return to his pre-injury form in 2013 others targeted the costly Richard Eckersley as a potential player to dump in favour of added cap space.
The one name that seemed to be the most divisive of the bunch was Torsten Frings. The holding midfielder is clearly a fan favourite around Toronto for his resume and his contributions in 2011 which played a massive role in the club reaching the knockout stages of the CONCACAF Champions League.
He is also arguably the most technically gifted and intelligent player to ever pull on the TFC shirt in the club's brief history. His resume is undeniable and the things that made him a great player for so many years are still there to see in his game but the problem is that last year he seemed to struggle to handle the physical demands of the game before having his season cut short by a hip injury.
Frings is working to get back to fitness for the new season but the odds of him being able to return to being a player that can consistently contribute with 90 minutes of play seem slim in 2013. There was already talk that this would be his last season as a player but is keeping him around on a DP deal to only be a part time player the best thing for Toronto FC?
That is where the debate of what the club should do in this case actually gets interesting. Frings is not the same player he was when he first arrived in 2011 but when he is fit he is still an important part of this team and there is no denying that having him in the middle of the park makes the squad better. The issue is whether or not he is still worth a DP cap hit or if the club would be better off replacing him with someone more affordable and looking for a long term up grade with their DP slots.
The other side of the coin is that Frings is a decorated player who clearly takes pride in what he does and if he does stick with his plan to hang up his boots at the end of 2013 then he would almost certainly be a very motivated player. He has reached some of the highest heights that the game has to offer and I am sure he would want to go out on another high by helping TFC drastically improve on their 2012 campaign.
At the end of the day the debate over what to do with Frings is one that could go on for days and no fan would be able to come to an unbiased conclusion about what to do with him. The only reason to buy him out is if the club is confident they can make better use of that cap space and DP slot in 2013. With so many holes to fill and time running out before the start of the season it almost seems rash to make another hole at this point in time.
We will follow the story as it unfolds in the coming days and weeks to see what comes of Torsten Frings but for now the official club line comes via Kurt Larson on twitter:
Cochrane: "Frings is back sorting out issues. I don't want to get into it ... He's still in recovery process. He'll rehab in Toronto." #TFC— Kurtis Larson (@KurtLarSUN) February 15, 2013