Straight swaps are something that don't often take place in a sport notorious for million dollar transfer fees. However, when Toronto FC and Sunderland swapped Jermain Defoe and Jozy Altidore last week, it was seen as a move that was convenient for both teams. The 25-year-old had become somewhat of an outcast with Sunderland, while Toronto FC outcast Defoe will bring his new team the scoring punch Altidore could never provide. Sunderland AFC's SB Nation blog, the Roker Report, fills Waking The Red in on how this move is being received in England.
1. What was the reputation of Altidore while he was playing for Sunderland?
Ah Jozy. To be brutally honest, Altidore was regarded as a bit of a joke during his time at Sunderland. It's a little cruel on him, but that's just the way it went for him in England. He arrived having already recorded a major failure in the Premier League with Hull City, so his struggles at Sunderland just stacked up on top of that, really.
With regard Sunderland fans specifically, I always sensed they were genuinely rooting for Jozy. I wouldn't say he was popular, but they got behind him and given his lack of product the patience and good will shown was remarkable. There was a lot of resignation in there; a kind of a 'a laugh is all we are likely to get out of him so we'd might as well have it' attitude, but there was a little genuine affection for him from some quarters, even if it was a little bit like the love you feel for a dumb and lame puppy that just can't catch a break in life.
2. What are your feelings, and that of the fans and media about the swap for Defoe?
I think it's one of those deals that really suits everyone. I'm not sure how much use Jermain Defoe was to Toronto given his quite clear desire to be elsewhere and Altidore was certainly no use to Sunderland. Both clubs have got a player better suited to their respective needs and markets and I think everyone should be pretty happy about it really.
The media over here have been very positive about the deal from a Sunderland perspective. A lot of that will be political, though. Defoe is a popular player here with the press. However, he is also a proven Premier League goalscorer, and for a lower-table club to have got him is regarded as something of a coup.
3. Considering what you know about Major League Soccer, do you think Altidore will be a success with Toronto FC?
I am positive he will, yes. Mind, then again I thought he'd do well at Sunderland too. Altidore is an odd kind of player to judge because I think he is very reliant on his comfort zone. At Sunderland, certainly, he never really showed the aggression or sheer desire needed to succeed in the Premier League. He just appeared to be in a mental daze constantly, wholly unable to rise to the challenge.
A lot of people in America have made the point that Altidore wasn't helped by playing in a poor Sunderland side, and it's definitely relevant to the discussion. However, he was given so many chances to make his mark and he couldn't, and the simple fact of the matter is that, no matter how bad Sunderland ever were, they were generally worse with Altidore in the team.
That should change in Toronto, though. It's a less aggressive league for one, so he'll get an easier time of it there. Michael Bradley's presence in the side should also settle him instantly given how well they know each other's games. I see no reason why he can't get back to scoring the amount of goals he did in Holland really. I'd certainly back him to at least match the output in the MLS of a half-motivated Defoe, anyway.
4. Do you think there is a bias in Europe against North American players?
I don't think so, no. Not that I've ever seen, anyway. Jozy is a case in point there really. You can compare him and the amount of chances he got from Sunderland and Sunderland fans with Danny Graham, who is another striker who arrived shortly before Jozy did and never scores. Altidore was persisted with right until the end and Graham was just about abandoned after barely six months. Claudio Reyna also played here and was really popular with the supporters.
I genuinely can't tell you if there is a bias against North American players elsewhere in Europe, and it's far too big a topic for me to guess at, but it's never been the case at Sunderland.
5. Has the perception of Major League Soccer in England changed at all as a result of moves like this?
As a result of this deal, not really. I think the MLS was seen as the only place Jozy had to go really. I'm not sure if that was the reality, but it was the perception. It's a tough one to judge really. I watch a lot of MLS and I love it, but there are so many televised foreign leagues nowadays I can understand why many choose to give it a miss.
The Frank Lampard deal hasn't done the MLS' credibility much good here in England, it has to be said, but then again the Steven Gerrard and Sebastian Giovinco captures really have made the headlines in Europe. Giovinco, especially, as a European player from a major European league going to the MLS in his prime can only be great news. Hopefully it will be a trendsetting deal.