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A Toronto FC World Cup Wishlist

Ho ho who should Toronto FC target?

MLS: Toronto FC Press Conference-Federico Bernardeschi Introduction Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2022 FIFA World Cup all wrapped up like the new air fryer underneath your Christmas tree, it’s time to look forward.

It was fun, we know, but there’s no need to say “Bah! Humbug!” Toronto FC takes the pitch in just 62 days! That means it’s not just the holiday season, but also transfer silly season.

Bob Bradley and company have already delivered some presents down the chimney for TFC fans. Jonathan Osorio is back, and so is Victor Vazquez. Veteran defender Matt Hedges is also coming to town.

With that being said, let’s take a peak at who might be on the TFC wishlist. Essentially we’re making a list and checking it a lot, gonna find out who’s available on a free or not.

It’s time to explore 10 names TFC should target from Qatar 2022. So grab a glass of eggnog and load up Transfermarkt (Bill Manning’s go-to) as we dream by the fire.

Ecuador Portraits - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Photo by David Ramos - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images

Moises Ramirez - Ecuador (2 caps)

Position: Goalkeeper

Age: 22

Club: Independiente del Valle

Transfermarkt value: €1,000,000

When to target: Pre-season transfer window

Likelihood meter: 6/10

This year, to save us from tears, Bradley needs to give the number 1 shirt to someone special.

Look no further than Ecuador’s Moises Ramirez. The young shot-stopper wasn’t between the sticks at this year’s World Cup, but his time will come. He will soon make sure all is calm and all is bright for La Tri supporters.

Though Ramirez has only made two appearances for Ecuador’s senior team, he has made a name for himself at the youth level. He was the starter for Ecuador’s 2019 South American U-20 Championship triumph, and third-place finish at the 2019 U-20 World Cup.

Ramirez is now the first-choice goalkeeper for Independiente del Valle in the Ecuadorian Serie A. At 22 years old, he has already helped his club win its first league title, and its second Copa Sudamericana. Independiente have also recently produced some of the country’s best talents; Piero Hincapie, Moises Caicedo and Willian Pacho have been sold by the club in the past two years, and are already dancing and prancing in Europe.

The six-foot-tall goalie has been subject to recent transfer rumours so TFC would be wise to snap up Ramirez before another South American giant, or European club shows real interest. If the hype is real, Ramirez could end up earning Toronto a hefty profit down the road. Tis’ the season to be jolly, and prudent.

Argentina v Australia: Round of 16 - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images

Thomas Deng - Australia (2 caps)

Position: Centre-back

Age: 25

Club: Albirex Niigata

Transfermarkt value: €600,000

When to target: Pre-season transfer window

Likelihood meter: 7/10

Thomas Deng didn’t see any minutes at the 2022 World Cup, but he is one of Australia’s most talented defenders who is just entering his prime.

Oh, and he’s available on a free. Who doesn’t love a Boxing Day deal?

Born in Kenya, Deng made his Socceroos debut as a 21-year-old in 2018. He captained his country during the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics in the country where he plays his club football, shifting between centre-back and right-back during the tournament’s group stage.

Viewed as a promising youngster back in his Melbourne United days, Deng spent a year on loan with the PSV youth team. He bet on himself in January 2020, making a move to Japanese football, but has endured a couple of injury-plagued campaigns with Urawa Reds and Albirex Niigata.

Deng seems to be fully-fit after making Graham Arnold’s World Cup squad, and should be aiming to get back to playing consistently after making just eight league appearances in 2022.

If Deng makes a MLS move, the Aussie could push to start beside Hedges, or provide depth at two defensive positions as he is capable at right-back. He is a budget-friendly option who could be signed to a one-year ‘prove it’ contract.

FBL-WC-2022-MATCH44-CRC-GER Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images

Ronald Matarrita - Costa Rica (54 caps)

Position: Left-back

Age: 28

Club: FC Cincinnati

Transfermarkt value: €1,200,000

When to target: Pre-season transfer window

Likelihood meter: 8/10

This one seems like a no-brainer.

Ronald Matarrita is a free agent at the end of the year after FC Cincinnati declined his contract option for 2023. TFC needs a left-back or two, and the Costa Rican international seems like a logical choice.

Still just 28, Matarrita is vastly experienced in MLS. The full-back left his homeland in 2016 to join New York City FC ahead of the club’s second season. He made 121 appearances for NYCFC before being traded to the Queen City in 2021 where he played two seasons.

Matarrita made two cameos in Qatar as Costa Rica failed to advance to the knockout stage. He has made 54 total appearances for Los Ticos since making his senior debut in September 2015.

Matarrita is a capable defender who could provide solidity on the left to make up for the marauding Richie Laryea on the right. Like the beloved Frosty the Snowman, Matarrita is quick, running here and there and around the square telling opponents “catch me if you can.”

He also knows how to score at BMO Field.

As one of the top free agents available, plenty of MLS teams will be looking to secure Matarrita’s signature for next season. There’s no reason TFC’s brass shouldn’t make a sales pitch as he decides his next steps.

FBL-WC-2022-MATCH42-CAN-MAR Photo by FADEL SENNA/AFP via Getty Images

Sam Adekugbe - Canada (36 caps)

Position: Left-back

Age: 27

Club: Hatayspor

Transfermarkt value: €2,000,000

When to target: Mid-season transfer window

Likelihood meter: 7/10

Three Canada men’s national team players have already made the move from MLS to Europe following Canada’s group stage exit. CF Montréal defenders Joel Waterman and Kamal Miller could soon follow. But why not bring a player back home for the holidays instead. Well, Sam Adekugbe is from Calgary, but you know what I mean.

Adekugbe is more than a man who loves hopping in a snow bank. He’s an energetic left-back who would help TFC address a position of need following Domenico Criscito and Luca Petrasso’s recent departures. He would add a lot of quality to Toronto’s left and bring some valuable international experience.

After some terrific performances donning the Maple Leaf, Adekugbe’s stock has risen. He could probably look to move to another European division like the Belgian Pro League or the Scottish Premiership before he enters his thirties.

Or instead, ahead of the 2026 World Cup on home turf, he could link up with some of his CanMNT teammates in Toronto, knowing that he can see tons of playing time at left-back.

Adekugbe’s contract with Turkish club Hatayspor runs up in 2024. With the Turkish Super Lig club currently in a relegation battle, Adekugbe could play out the rest of the season and try to help his club secure top-flight safety. TFC could then come calling in the summer and try to get a bargain on the Canadian with only a year remaining on his contract.

Cameroon v Brazil -World Cup Photo by Dale MacMillan/Soccrates/Getty Images

Nouhou - Cameroon (22 caps)

Position: Left-back

Age: 25

Club: Seattle Sounders

Transfermarkt value: €3,000,000

When to target: Pre-season transfer window

Likelihood meter: 5/10

Sounders fans call him ‘Nouhoo Choo Choo’ because of his nonstop running. TFC fans will hope the Cameroonian hops on the Polar Express to Toronto.

Nouhou has been part of the Seattle Sounders setup since 2016 but has really come into his own during the past two seasons. He is a workhorse defensively and the energy he brings onto the field is contagious.

Internationally, the fullback is one of Cameroon’s most important players. The 25-year-old started all three group stage games in Qatar, including a historic 1-0 victory over Brazil in which he was immense, even after receiving an early yellow card.

Nouhou seems like the perfect fit for Toronto’s vacant left-back spot. The only problem is that Seattle might not be willing to part with the fan-favourite. He’s worth an inquiry at the very least.

Tunisia v France: Group D - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Photo by Pablo Morano/BSR Agency/Getty Images

Ellyes Skhiri - Tunisia (52 caps)

Position: Defensive midfielder

Age: 27

Club: FC Koln

Transfermarkt value: €13,000,000

When to target: Pre-season transfer window

Likelihood meter: 5/10

O Come, Ellyes Faithful!

Ellyes Skhiri played an important role in Tunisia’s three games in Qatar, including a stellar performance against the French on the final match day in Group D. Aissa Laidouni may have stolen the headlines in a Man of the Match performance against Denmark, but Skhiri has been one of the first names on the Tunisian team sheet since the 2018 World Cup.

The 27-year-old Montpellier product is a hardworking defensive midfielder who loves to get in the tackles and stop opponents in their tracks. He is second only to Joshua Kimmich in distance covered in Germany’s top-flight this season. The Koln centurion is also tidy in possession; only seven Bundesliga players have been more accurate with open-play passes in 2022/23.

Skhiri’s contract expires at the end of this season. As a result, Toronto’s management could look to sign Skhiri on a pre-contract to arrive in July, similar to what we saw with Lorenzo Insigne last year. Given his pedigree, a designated player contract could be what it takes to bring the Tunisian to Toronto.

35-year-old Michael Bradley started every league match for TFC last season. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come has forewarned that won’t be sustainable for much longer. Skhiri would be able to take much of the burden off of Bradley’s shoulders and add some fresher legs to the TFC midfield.

Saudi Arabia v Mexico -World Cup Photo by Rico Brouwer/Soccrates/Getty Images

Luis Chavez - Mexico (12 caps)

Position: Defensive midfielder

Age: 26

Club: Pachuca

Transfermarkt value: €8,000,000

When to target: Mid-season transfer window

Likelihood meter: 4/10

Luis Chavez was one of the few bright spots for a Mexican side that slumped out to an early exit in Qatar. El Tri have not been a dominant force in CONCACAF for a number of years, but Chavez is one player who can play a big part in turning around his nation’s fortunes.

National team ambitions were little more than a dream for Chavez not too long ago. The midfielder wasn’t in the picture during 2022 World Cup qualifying and only made his Mexico debut this past April.

Now with 12 caps to his name, and a World Cup ‘Goal of the Tournament’ contender on his résumé, Chavez could be eyeing a move out of Liga MX.

The 26-year-old found his form after moving from Tijuana to Pachuca in 2019. He recently won the Apertura 2022, Pachuca’s seventh top-flight trophy.

Chavez’s contract with Los Tuzos doesn’t expire until the summer of 2025, so if a deal is to be done, the transfer fee will probably have to be around the €10,000,000 mark Inter Miami dished out for Rodolfo Pizarro in 2020. Pachuca won’t let him leave for peanuts, especially after leaving a good impression on the world stage.

If TFC splashes the cash on Chavez, supporters will be singing Feliz Navidad all winter long.

Serbia v Switzerland -World Cup Photo by Jeroen van den Berg/Soccrates/Getty Images

Andrija Zivkovic - Serbia (32 caps)

Position: Right wing

Age: 26

Club: PAOK

Transfermarkt value: €6,000,000

When to target: Mid-season transfer window

Likelihood meter: 4/10

Andrija Zivkovic hasn’t had the easiest of paths since being dubbed the ‘Serbian Messi,’ but it seems like he’s come out better for it.

The diminutive forward failed to deliver on the hype after leaving Partizan Belgrade for Benfica in 2016. Fresh off of winning the 2015 U-20 World Cup over Brazil, it seemed as though the shifty winger could not fail. Seven years later, Zivkovic has put his rocky time in Portugal in the past. He now plays for Greek club PAOK, where he has revitalized his career.

For Serbia, Zivkovic has been largely been utilized as a wing-back by manager Dragan Stojkovic. From the right flank, he likes to cut in on his favoured left to send in crosses, or spin into the penalty area like a dreidel.

For club, Zivkovic plays higher up the pitch as a right or left wing. Since going to Greece, he has helped PAOK reach the quarter-finals of the Europa Conference League, and win the 2020/21 Greek Cup. Zivkovic assisted the 90th minute winner in the 2020/21 cup final with a cheeky backheel, perhaps a clear sign that he has found his confidence once again.

Though he hasn’t hit the lofty heights that were set for him as a teenager, Zivkovic still has a few years left in his prime to show the world what he’s really about. Insigne and Bernardeschi are set to start the season on the wings, but behind those two, TFC doesn’t possess many quality options. Jayden Nelson has been the subject of recent transfer rumours, whilst Deandre Kerr is still developing.

FBL-WC-2022-MATCH37-AUS-DEN Photo by ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP via Getty Images

Kasper Dolberg - Denmark (40 caps)

Position: Striker

Age: 25

Club: Sevilla FC (on loan from OGC Nice)

Transfermarkt value: €12,000,000

When to target: Mid-season transfer window

Likelihood meter: 3/10

Simply having a wonderful Kasper-time!

Okay, this is probably the least realistic target on the wishlist but you never know.

Kasper Dolberg was part of a disappointing Danish squad that crashed out in the World Cup’s group stage after a 1-0 loss to Australia. He has 11 goals in 40 appearances for his country.

Dolberg was a highly touted youngster who made his breakthrough at Ajax as a 19 year-old, scoring 23 times across all competitions in 2016/17. He was then part of the Amsterdam club’s magical 2018/19 Champions League run. Though he didn’t score during his team’s march to the semi-finals, Dolberg had 11 in the Eredivisie that season; he’s yet to better that mark in a league campaign since going to Nice in 2020.

Dolberg is currently on loan with Sevilla but has yet to find the back of the net while in Spain. He has only started three matches for Jorge Sampaoli’s side. Now 25 years old, Dolberg could hit the refresh button and take on a new challenge across the pond. Even if it’s just a temporary spell in MLS, the 6’1” striker could light up the league like a menorah and then return to Europe full of confidence.

A clever runner off the ball who likes getting on the end of crosses, Dolberg could be the type of profile Manning and Bob Bradley are after to slot in-between Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi. Importantly, Toronto still have a DP slot to work with.

Germany v Japan: Group E - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images

Shuto Machino - Japan (4 caps)

Position: Striker

Age: 23

Club: Shonan Bellmare

Transfermarkt value: €1,200,000

When to target: Pre-season transfer window

Likelihood meter: 6/10

What a name.

Shuto Machino was a late call-up for Japan’s World Cup squad after Yuta Nakayama’s achilles injury ruled him out of the tournament. The striker didn't see the pitch in Qatar, but will be hoping to become a national team mainstay in the coming years.

Internationally, Machino has taken the chances afforded to him. He has three goals in four appearances since debuting as a Blue Samurai this past summer.

The 23-year-old striker has spent the past four years moving up the ranks in Japan, having played in the top three leagues with two different clubs. Since moving to Shonan Bellmare in 2021, Machino has steadily improved as a finisher, chipping in 13 goals this past season after netting 4 during his debut campaign in Hiratsuka.

In 2022, no Japanese player in the J League 1 had more goals than Machino’s 13, finishing the season one goal short of the league’s top-scorer. He scored a bunch of headers, and showed an ability to find the back of the net with his weaker left foot. Watching his highlights, Machino also seems to have a natural instinct for getting in dangerous positions. All things you want to see from your number nine.

Machino has one year remaining on his contract with Shonan Bellmare, meaning that TFC could possibly bring him in on good value if the striker is interested in moving abroad.

TFC already has four first-team strikers signed on for 2023, but it’s beginning to look a lot like the club should freshen up the forward department. There’s toys in every store! Why not bring a rising talent to our own front door?

Stocking stuffers (honourable mentions)

Sergio Rochet - Uruguay (11 caps)

Daniel Amartey - Ghana (48 caps)

Davy Klaassen - Netherlands (39 caps)

Happy Holidays everyone!