Toronto FC haven't had the best luck when France is concerned. While Benoit Cheyrou becomes the fourth big signing of a historic offseason for the club, History is less kind to the fact that he is also the fourth Frenchman in club history. For purposes of parallelism, and because he plays internationally for them, Damien Perquis is considered Polish. Lauren Robert, Léandre Griffit and Eric Hassli are the only three French players to have played with the club. For different reasons they all failed to make an Impact.
Cheyrou, for his part, will have far less pressure. While he does certainly have some pedigree about him as a European player with over 200 caps for Marseille, one of the planet's most storied clubs, things aren't quite the same with this team or the league anymore. In terms of offseason hype, the 33-year-old will certainly be behind the likes of Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco, and won't be a designated player like Hassli. When Robert came, his past experience brought with it immense expectations that he never fulfilled.
This move certainly adds some context to recent transfers which sent Dominic Oduro to the Montreal Impact and Kyle Bekker to FC Dallas. Bringing in Cheyrou seems to point to the fact that the club will be playing a sort of diamond midfielder this season, at least considering the players it has at present. Between Giovinco, Michael Bradley, Jonathan Osorio, Collen Warner and now Cheyrou, the club has five solid options in the centre of midfield. Discussing tactics preseason is never the best policy, but it is the option that makes the most sense.
The 33-year-old came to the club as free agent, meaning for those counting Toronto has yet to pay a transfer fee this off season. While some of the contracts they have signed certainly have large salary figures within, this shows how expertly the team has operated this offseason.
The Frenchman last played a year ago for Marseille, having his contract terminated in October. He has also played over 100 games for both Auxerre and Lille in France. Combined he has over 400 career caps. While he never played for the senior French national team, he has played for the majority of their youth teams.
While exactly where he will fit has yet to be outlined, Cheyrou is certainly a solid signing for the team as it increases the midfield depth for a club that has never before had a wealth of options in the middle of the park. He is a solid player on the ball, with good distribution from the back. Between himself, Bradley, Osorio and Giovinco, Toronto is making a case as the league's best midfield. At the very least they will be one of the most enthralling to watch next season.
His age is a slight concern for those who would prefer to see Toronto stick with the youth movement they are currently embracing. This is warranted, older non-DP European players have never really worked out in Major League Soccer. However, for the most part those have been attacking players who once relied on their speed and distribution to score goals and therefore became marginalized when they joined MLS. There should be no such concern with Cheyrou considering his role and the fact that he will play beside a 27-year-old Bradley with no shortage of energy.
While it is Canada's second language, almost anything said in French has traditionally brought bad omens. Now "Benoit Cheyrou" could join "Nous chantons les rouges allez!" as one of those few exceptions.