Well it's been 2 weeks now since the rumours and tweets moved into a full on report at the Globe and Mail, that Diego Forlan would be signing with Toronto FC, to unveiled later that week. Forlan's agent and current club denied it, then TFC have spent the next two weeks pouring water on the rumours, acknowledging that they were going after him, but seeming to walk further and further away from it actually being likely to happen.
Theories as to why generally went with Forlan not wanting to jeopardise his spot in Uruguay's team at next year's World Cup by moving to MLS, but it came out today, tweeted by Steven Goff that it's not really MLS that's the problem, it's TFC specifically.
It is of course since the arrival of Tim Leiweke that talk of going after a big name Designated Player really got going. Kevin Payne and Ryan Nelsen have talked a lot about building a foundation first, sensible stuff for a team with a history of not really ever doing that. Payne had talked about looking for younger players, up and coming potential stars from South or Central America. A few names, Arnold Peralta, Alex Lopez, Max Urruti have been talked about without happening, but Matias Laba's signature was secured and so far that looks like a very good move. A lot of stop gap signings have been made, some of which have already left, and plenty of other players have been let go to wrestle the salary cap situation under control.
The team was never going to be built in one off season, but with a few missteps (Danny Califf, and increasingly it seems the draft) being offset by the later signings of Laba and Steven Caldwell and the emergence of Jonathan Osorio, there were some positives for sure, even if it wasn't a resounding success. Just how positive you'd judge the moves is definitely up for debate, but it at least seemed like Payne and Nelsen were trying to move in the right direction, starting the hard work of building a team from the bottom up.
It made sense for Leiweke to mention his success with the LA Galaxy and his big coup in bringing David Beckham over when he first arrived, and his ambition to do something similar with TFC. It's a bit alarming though that after almost 3 months in the job now, he still seems to think that's the one thing that TFC really needs, a star player to bring some excitement and buzz back to BMO Field. Pretty obvious that he's the one behind the Forlan talk, behind the talk of one or two A list players he's trying to bring in.
Over the last few days though, there's definitely been hints put out through the media that any TFC fans hoping for this star player might be best lowering their expectations. Now there's talk of this pursuit taking a while, maybe this window, maybe the next. Add in the tweet above and you get the impression that it's really not going to happen, whatever the reason might be.
Might that be for the best? It's difficult to say for certain, but bringing a DP with only a couple of years left, even one as good as Diego Forlan might be or Torsten Frings was into a bad team and hoping that he'll be the key to turning things around hasn't really worked out so far for TFC has it? Fairly or unfairly, and I'd very much go with fairly, TFC seems to be viewed as a bit of a circus, with dysfunction and direction changes abounding, players churned in and out as quickly as coaches and all sorts of media leaks as it all happens. All about the sizzle, the flash and the hype and never really about building a proper respectable team. It's going to be a slow process to turn that around, should we really be throwing a big name DP into that mix? Might that history and attitude be part of what turns players such as Forlan, or Lucas Melano, away? Might it not be time to try something different, build a solid and stable team, get back a bit of respectability and trust, find players who like Laba could be part of a long term solution for the club?
Going by quotes in this John Molinaro article, Ryan Nelsen seems to think so.
"I know there's an urgency but we have to do it right. We have to get the exact right person on the right terms, and if it's not best for the club for the short- and long-term future then we're just reliving the past,"
"You can go out there and take a risk on certain players but that's what's happened in the past here. To fix a long-term problem you don't put in a short-term solution," Nelsen stated. "I have to look at the bigger picture and look at next season and the years beyond. I want to put a foundation in place where not just for the next three months but for the next three years we'll have a team that'll be stable.
"Once it's done right, we won't have to bring in replacement after replacement after replacement. That's what's been happening here for the past seven years."
Leiweke certainly doesn't agree with that, and judging by this article from Neil Davidson, doesn't sound like he's completely sold on Nelsen either, a bit alarming really though it is nice to see him actually acknowledge that Beckham didn't singlehandedly turn LA around, that was more Bruce Arena's work.
Maybe the Forlan signing would have worked, maybe it wouldn't, but I'd rather it was Payne or Nelsen making those decisions and deciding the priorities. There was already a balancing act going on between the long term building project, the long grind to respectability, and the ability to compete right now and not lose any more fans with a season even worse than the last. I'd say a third priority of a big name to provide some buzz is the last thing we need to be adding to that mix.
Hope comes from another two articles that Neil Davidson wrung out of his interview, one about upgrading BMO Field, and one about getting into the music festival business. Hopefully Liewecke can be distracted with that sort of MLSE brand building stuff and leave the football decisions to those hired to make them. So far in this transfer window activity has been very slow for TFC, if Mark Bloom is all we end up with, that'd be considered disastrous, so hopefully there is more to come in the next couple of weeks, and hopefully it's Payne and Nelsen who are behind any moves. As far as Forlan goes, he should probably be considered a bullet dodged.