On Tuesday, news broke that Toronto FC midfielder Victor Vazquez has been sold to a club in Qatar, pending a physical. Falling on the first day of training camp, the news came as a shock to fans, many of whom are showing their disappointment at the sale of one of the most important players in franchise history.
Greg Vanney told reporters that Victor had requested to leave the club, as the unnamed Qatari team had offered him a contract with more long-term security than his deal in Toronto, so when his agent contacted then-general manager Tim Bezbatchenko, Toronto reluctantly let him go.
Although it’s definitely disappointing that he is leaving, there is a pro for every con.
Vazquez was the much-needed link between the defense and the attack in 2017, and was arguably the difference between losing MLS Cup in 2016 and winning the treble in 2017. His vision on the pitch and ability to pick out anyone with a pass made him one of the best midfielders in the league, but such a high-calibre player came with a hefty price tag.
His base salary in 2018 was $1,365,000, which made him the fourth-highest-paid player on the team. Losing Vazquez’s contract allows Ali Curtis and Greg Vanney to search for a potential (younger) replacement in midfield, sign another high-calibre player, or split the money up and fill in multiple gaps all over the park. He won’t be easy to replace, but he isn’t quite irreplaceable.
Victor was almost guaranteed to start any match he was fit enough to play in, but in 2018, injuries were commonplace. After dealing with significant knee injuries throughout his career, Vazquez was injury prone, and was limited to just 26 of Toronto FC’s 47 games in 2018. He had season-ending arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in October, and there is always the chance he will re-injure himself again.
Paying him as much as they did, for as little as he played, was no longer reasonable, so Vazquez made the right choice by seeking a job with more security. His deal at the Qatari club is rumoured to include the option to stay on as a coach after his playing days (something that many fans thought he would do here in Toronto), so long-term security is better for him and his family.
Losing Vazquez opens a spot in midfield. When looking at players on the current roster to fill the gap, one player in particular comes to mind: Brampton native Jay Chapman. Chapman played 27 times in 2018, more than Vazquez, but was mostly limited to substitute appearances and featured in the games that Greg Vanney opted to throw away during TFC’s Champions League run. After Jonathan Osorio’s breakout season in 2018, many fans are hoping Jay Chapman can follow in his footsteps. Chapman has shown flashes of brilliance in his limited playing time, including this perfectly placed strike against Philadelphia:
Other players who will be fighting for those minutes include Liam Fraser, Aidan Daniels, recently-drafted Adam Wilson, and former Orlando City midfielder Richie Laryea, who The Athletic’s Paul Tenorio is reporting is in camp with the Reds to compete for a roster spot.
Victor Vazquez is a Toronto FC legend. He deserved every ounce of praise that he received over the last two years and without him, Toronto FC might not have won the four major trophies that they won during his time in Canada.
It was, however, the right time for the two sides to part ways.
There was uncertainty about his future with regards to his injuries, and the large contract that he was signed to limited the club from signing other players. Soccer is ultimately a business, so moving his contract is best for the club going forward from a business standpoint.
It isn’t the end of the world, nor should it be treated as so, but it does now present some serious questions to new general manager Ali Curtis. Who will replace Vazquez? What will Toronto FC do with all of the new TAM that they have now freed up?
Only time will tell.
But for now, let’s all take a moment to look back on what I’m sure can be classified as our favourite memory of Victor’s time in Toronto:
Thanks for the memories, El Mago, and good luck in Qatar.