TORONTO, Canada.,—A move that would put a smile on the face of any Toronto FC fan appears to be in the works, according to Victor Vazquez, who spoke with the Footy Talks panel on Thursday afternoon.
According to Vazquez, who is currently contracted to Qatar side Umm Salal, he has been talking with his former club about a possible return to BMO Field when his contract expires on June 30.
“I miss playing in MLS,” Vazquez told TSN’s Kristian Jack. “I love Toronto. It is our second home. I miss playing there. My contract here in Qatar expires on June 30 & I am talking with people at Toronto. I’m not happy here football wise; it is so far behind MLS. It would be great to come back.”
Vazquez spent two seasons with Toronto FC, highlighted by playing a crucial role for the Reds during their treble-winning 2017 season and push to the 2018 CONCACAF Champions League Final. In 65 matches for the club across all competitions, the now-33-year-old scored 18 times and added 17 assists en route to earning a spot in the 2017 MLS Best XI.
“I’ve had no injuries since leaving,” Vazquez added. “It will be great to come back. I would love it. I don’t care about the money. Only 2 times I thought about money in my career: From Brugge to Mexico—a mistake—and from Toronto to Qatar—another mistake.”
While Toronto FC General Manager Ali Curtis didn’t completely close the door when speaking with The Toronto Sun, it appears that talks to bring the Spaniard back to the club aren’t in the advanced stages.
“We won’t be signing any players at this moment, especially given the uncertainty and impact that COVID-19 is having on our league, and the global community,” said Curtis. “With that said, things sometimes change quickly.
“Victor is a great guy and was a terrific player for TFC. I haven’t spoken to him directly for some time. While Victor still remains part of the TFC family, at the moment, we’re focused on the current players on our roster, the staff, and managing through the challenges of the pandemic.”
Unfortunately, there’s also a hitch. Even if Vazquez took the league minimum, the way that he technically departed—for money—may just have hindered what could have been a joyful reunion.
Since Toronto FC transferred Vazquez outside of the MLS for a sum greater than $500,000, in order for the former FC Barcelona product to return, he would have to go through the MLS Allocation Process. In other words, unless TFC are sure that other teams do not want the aging veteran, the Reds—who currently possess the No. 25 spot—would likely have to acquire the No. 1 allocation spot from LAFC to ensure that they can re-sign their former No. 7.
But here’s where it gets tricky.
First, some background information. In January 2019, Toronto FC acquired the No. 1 in MLS Allocation Ranking from expansion side FC Cincinnati—and 300k in allocation money—in exchange for 26-year-old defender Nick Hagglund and the No. 24 spot. In hindsight, this price ended up being a steal for the Reds, who further leveraged their position to acquire another future asset: a 2020 MLS SuperDraft first-round pick from LAFC (Ajax-native Nyal Higgins).
The price to move up, however, won’t be so cheap this time around.
Unfortunately for the Toronto FC GM Ali Curtis and co., at the time, they had no way of knowing this, but the team that they were strong-arming would actually end up being the same team holding all of the cards in a possible VV-BMO Field reunion.
After Toronto FC used their No. 1 Allocation spot to sign Omar Gonzalez last season, LAFC would then swoop in and acquire the top spot from Nashville SC this past offseason in exchange for $350,000 in GAM, a 2022 second-round SuperDraft pick, and the No. 24 spot.
Keeping in mind it cost LAFC a first-round pick to move up just one spot in the allocation order just under a year ago when the Reds held all of the cards, I think it’s safe to say that No. 1 spot won’t come as cheaply this time around for TFC.
While they do have a lot of cost-friendly, talented youngsters that they may be able to offer as trade bait, it’s difficult to see the Reds—a team that already spends close to the budget—being able to provide the roster flexibility (aka $$$) that a contending team like LAFC would likely ask for.
In order for this scenario to work, Toronto FC would likely have to work out a deal to move close to the No. 1 spot—perhaps with Inter Miami CF who possess the No. 2 ranking. That way, TFC could offer a deal similar to the one LAFC offered to them in which LAFC gave up virtually nothing for something. But again, the price to get into that position won’t be cheap.
Last year, when LAFC acquired the top spot from Toronto FC in order to sign centre back Giancarlo Gonzalez, they were forced to dish out $400,000 in TAM to Orlando City SC in order to move up from No. 11 to No. 2 before giving up a first-round pick to the Reds to secure the No. 1 position.
So either way you look at it, even if Vazquez says that he wants to return on a league-minimum deal, the total cost of reacquiring the beloved Spaniard may end up being in excess of $500,000 on their budget.
With that being said, it’s not impossible. If an asset like Alex Bono, Eriq Zavaleta or Patrick Mullins for instance—who all carry a pretty significant salary budget charge—can be used as trade bait to move up in the allocation order, they’d be killing two birds with one stone. Would an expansion team like FC Cincinnati be interested in shoring up their squad with MLS veterans in exchange for the No. 3 spot in the allocation ranking? That may be the Reds’ best bet.
There’s also another scenario in which we see Vazquez return to Toronto, one that I spoke with coach Greg Vanney about prior to the start of the season.
While Vazquez is adamant that his injury-ridden history may be behind him, citing his perfect health since he moved to Qatar, if the TFC front office deem that the aging veteran isn’t worth the price at this moment, I believe that we will still (eventually) see a reunion.
That’s because Vazquez wants to coach.
“I’m ready & talk often to Greg Vanney,” Vazquez told KJ, adding that he has already begun his first level of coaching badges. “He has a good vision outside the pitch & how to prepare. His vision & intelligence is amazing. After Guardiola, he is the best coach I’ve ever had”
I know that Vanney also holds Vazquez in high-regard and is confident that he will be a coach one day. Furthermore, if both parties want to head in this direction, they won’t have to go through the Allocation Process.
But is VV ready to hang up the boots just yet? We’ll just have to wait and see how this one plays out.