A year ago it seemed that Lucas Neill was on the verge of joining the Seattle Sounders. At least, that was what they were saying over on Sounder at Heart where they reported the move was all but a done deal before it seemingly fell apart. Instead, he spent the last year playing for Al Wasl and then Sydney FC.
Now it seems the 35-year-old defender and national team captain is again looking to make the move to MLS. According to his coach with Australia, Holger Osiek, the move was the reason that he left his captain out of his latest lineup. Osiek also revealed that Neill went to North America on vacation following the last round of international matches and is now in talks with a pair of teams.
"Lucas, after we terminated [finished] our [World Cup] qualifying campaign, went on a short vacation, to my knowledge in America, he is in contact with two clubs, is very likely to sign there, and was not available for the team," he said.
The initial report from Osiek does not include the names of any clubs but that has not stopped a number of followup reports from suggesting potential landing points for the defender. Not surprisingly, Toronto FC is being thrown around as a potential landing point for the player.
If Neill were to come to Toronto it would unite the Australian captain with the former New Zealand captain as his head coach. It would be an interesting partnership but the question is would Neill make sense for a club that just parted ways with Darren O'Dea to save money?
A player with Neill's experience on the international stage and the club stage would not likely be coming in cheap. His resume includes stints with Blackburn Rovers, West Ham United, Everton, and Galatasaray. Even though he has slipped down the club ranks the past two years he has continued to be a key player for Australia and would likely still be looking to land a good salary.
Toronto FC just spent the last few weeks trying to create cap-space to add some much needed attacking talent but by getting rid of O'Dea they do have some holes to address in the defence. The addition of Steven Caldwell has worked out and provide some stability but the quality on the outside has been lacking and Gale Agbossoumonde and Doneil Henry have lacked the consistency needed. So despite Toronto looking to spend on the attack they could still use an upgrade on defence.
It is worth asking what Neill would bring to the team as a 35-year-old who has only made 28 appearances for his clubs since the start of the 2011-12 season. He has made almost as many appearances for Australia since 2011 having featured 27 times for his national team. The decline in his club career is a reason for concern but his performances with Australia should serve as a reminder that he is still capable of being a quality player.
If Toronto is looking to add a defender to replace O'Dea then Neill would be a quality option but the key would be to avoid over-paying for him like the club has done so many times in the past. Replacing a player who was being over-paid with another player that would eat up a large chunk of the salary cap would just be poor business, and typical TFC, so hopefully they can resist that temptation.