After at least a week of gossip and speculation, Toronto FC have officially announced the signing of Dutch right back Gregory van der Wiel. Coming over from Serie A’s Cagliari on a TAM-based transfer, van der Wiel is TFC’s first new signing of 2018.
As I’m sure everyone already knows, van der Wiel is a defender with a strong pedigree, with 89 appearances for Paris Saint-Germain and 46 caps for the Dutch national team. He’s played at the World Cup and the UEFA Champions League, and he has four Ligue 1 titles under his belt.
He’s 29 years old, six feet tall, and might just be the most talented right back in MLS right now... (Alright, that’s enough of the Vince McMahon bit).
TFC fans have all been pretty confident this transfer would go through since last Friday, when news first broke that the defender and his wife were on their way to Toronto. Van der Wiel was spotted sitting with Tim Bezbatchenko at the Toronto Raptors game on Sunday, and MLSE precedent suggested that was the final piece of the puzzle.
He’s also been responding positively to fans’ Instagram DMs all weekend. So now, TFC have spilled the worst-kept secret in Toronto.
With Justin Morrow occupying his preferred number 2 shirt, and Chris Mavinga owning the 23 van der Wiel wore at Fenerbahce and PSG, I’ll be interested to see what number he ends up with. TFC don’t have a lot of typical defenders’ numbers available at the moment (maybe he takes Steven Beitashour’s 33?)
With the club training in Los Angeles at the moment, I doubt van der Wiel is going to fly out to join them. The Reds are scheduled to return to Toronto this Saturday, Feb. 3, so hanging out here while he waits for them sounds like a good way for van der Wiel to get settled in a new city.
TFC head to Mexico for the second part of their preseason on Feb. 6, which could be the first time van der Wiel joins them for training. The last time van der Wiel played 90 minutes was Jan. 22 against Fiorentina; he’s only appeared six times for Cagliari since he joined them in August.
For that reason, I’d say it’s a little doubtful he plays in the CONCACAF Champions League opener against the Colorado Rapids. Denver and Toronto in February is hardly the way I’d want to introduce someone who’s spent the last couple years in Sardinia and Istanbul.