TORONTO, Canada—Since becoming a free agent in August after mutually terminating his contract with Al Hilal, Sebastian Giovinco has been trying to make a return to Toronto.
However, Toronto FC and their former superstar have been unable to come to terms on a new agreement as they remain apart on exact dollar value. So, perhaps in a ploy to appeal to the fan base, the Italian has decided to take negotiations publicly in an exclusive interview with Laura Armstrong of the Toronto Star.
Former Toronto FC striker Sebastian Giovinco is the club’s all-time leading goal scorer and was Major League Soccer’s most valuable player in 2015.— Toronto Star (@TorontoStar) December 10, 2021
"I want to come back," Giovinco said.https://t.co/GQLapuRpcs
“I want to come back,” Giovinco told Armstrong.
Giovinco said he and his agent, Andrea Cattoli, have met with TFC management a couple of times since the summer, though he said none of those talks have been very serious.
“Just, ‘We want you … but the budget, all these kinds of things,’” said Giovinco.
Here’s where it gets really interesting.
According to Armstrong, the 34-year-old Giovinco — who turns 35 in January — said he would expect to be the best player on the field if he did return to TFC, believing his talent is worthy of a designated player tag. However, he’s refuting reports that he wants too much money, adding that he’s not asking to be among the top five or 10 paid players in the league.
The issue with that line of thinking is that it’s not about exact dollar amount from a Toronto FC perspective. It’s about trying to fit Giovinco under the salary budget, and more importantly, assessing whether or not he is worthy of occupying one of three designated player (DP) slots.
For context, in MLS, you’re only allowed to sign up to three DPs to more than the maximum Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) amount a season, which was $1,612,500 in 2021. As it stands, the Reds currently have three DPs on their roster: Alejandro Pozuelo, Jozy Altidore, and Yeferson Soteldo, though Altidore and Soteldo are unlikely to return to Toronto in 2022.
And although the TFC front office has hinted that significant changes are coming, it’s more than fair to be skeptical that Giovinco, at his age, would be able to live up to that status in the same way that Altidore has been unable to live up to his status the past two seasons.
So would the Atomic Ant accept less money (and perhaps a lesser role) to return?
“It’s not nice to be the best player on the field and not be designated player but I close one eye for TFC,” Giovinco said. “But just for TFC.”
Apparently, he would ‘consider something close’ to what TFC captain Michael Bradley accepted prior to the 2020 season. With his contract up, Bradley took a signficant pay cut for the better of the club, signing for max TAM at the time (roughly 1.5 million), which allowed the Reds to sign another DP.
If (and it’s still an if) Seba was keen on a deal like Bradley’s, even then, you have to wonder if he’d be worth it. TAM in MLS goes a long way, and with the league growing on a yearly basis, the financial flexibility is worth a lot more than it was a few years ago. Even Bradley, who left a lot of money on the table, has received criticism about his price tag.
As Armstrong outlines, Giovinco believes he has another three or four seasons in him before he considers retirement, and has made his desire to return to Toronto clear. With that being said, teams are knocking on the 2015 MLS MVP’s door, and Giovinco can only remain on the sidelines for so long.
“I say no (to a) couple, maybe more than a couple, teams because I want to come back here to play here for TFC,” said Giovinco. “But now we are already four months. I think it’s enough to wait and to say no to the teams. We have to start to talk if we want to talk; if not, I have to figure out other options.”
Have your say and let us know in the comments: What do you believe is a fair price for Sebastian Giovinco?