Amidst all of the hype of the signing of Jermain Defoe and Michael Bradley, on February 14, 2014, an experienced Brazilian goalkeeper was signed on loan to Toronto FC, and he took a bit of a backseat to all the hype before the 2014 season. His name was Júlio César.
Júlio César, aged 34, was looking to get into the Brazil’s 2014 World Cup squad as a starting goalkeeper for them. The reason why he wanted to move to Toronto FC, even though he was with Queen’s Park Rangers, was that he was reduced to a backup role in the first team with QPR, as Robert Green had taken his spot as a starter. Apparently he was reduced to such a low role that he was starting to practice in a local park just to keep his fitness up before the 2014 World Cup.
When he came to Toronto, his presence (at least from my eyes) was overshadowed. During the infamous ‘Bloody Big Deal’ era, the two big names that people kept saying were Jermain Defoe and Michael Bradley. Despite them also being big names to come to Toronto FC when we were so bad, Cesar was a big name that was greatly overlooked in part due to the fact that he was only on a season-long loan to the team — and there were no plans to bring him back with some sort of future fee or something like that, and also that he came after the two (at the time) largest signings for Toronto FC in terms of pedigree.
Anyway, Cesar took away the starting position right off the bat from 25-year-old Joe Bendik; he appeared to be quite a big upgrade on him, making many great saves, and proving that he was a top-quality goalkeeper despite him playing behind a not-so-great defence. Quickly the Toronto FC fan base began to really like him, and hoped that Cesar would stay amid the rumours that QPR were considering recalling from loan as he was playing well for us. Eventually, he was recalled in July 2014, only making seven MLS appearances.
In terms of statistics while he was playing in Toronto, he played fairly decently. He had 27 shots taken at him in seven games which averages to just under four per game — around average. Out of those shots, he saved 18 of them, and conceded nine goals — which means that his overall save percentage with Toronto FC was 67%, which is exactly the same as Alex Bono’s average. That percentage is by no means amazing; it is fairly average compared to most MLS goalkeepers. To be honest, I think (I might be a bit biased here as I like Julio Cesar), that his numbers were down a little more than they could’ve been because of the defence that was in front of him.
Since his time with Toronto FC, he of course played with QPR to finish off the season and then mutually terminated his contract with them at the end of the year. In between his final year with QPR, he actually accomplished his goal of being the starting keeper for the Brazilian national team, coming fourth in the 2014 World Cup in his home country.
Although Cesar’s last World Cup was a bit of a disappointment (especially with the 7-1 loss to Germany on home soil), it was certainly an accomplishment on its own that he went from practicing in the park to the World Cup.
For the 2014-15 season, and for the next few years to come, Cesar would play for Portuguese giants Benfica. He was really starting to get up there in age, and he was certainly not what he used to be back in his days when he was playing for Inter Milan, but he still had enough skill and fitness to be playing still in a great league and for a great team. He actually was a starter for Benfica, too, until they started moving him into a backup position behind the now-Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson in the 2016-17 season. He later mutually terminated with Benfica as he had become a backup behind 24 year-old Bruno Varela and 19 year-old Mile Svilar.
He then returned to his boyhood club, Flamengo, on a symbolic three-month contract where he took up the number 12, his number that was previously retired. He playedtwo games with them until he then retired from professional soccer at the age of 38. Starting his career with Flamengo, and ending his career with Flamengo, with so much in between these two spells. He had such a great career.
In my opinion I think Julio Cesar was a success at Toronto FC as he came on loan and helped mentor Joe Bendik a lot, which greatly improved Bendik’s quality when Cesar was recalled. He added to the hype of the ‘Bloody Big Deal’ era, but actually played well in it, and seemed like he wanted to play in Toronto as well.
He may have cost TFC’s front office a lot in the wage budget, and in MLS’s roster registration limits, but in my opinion he brought more attention to Toronto, and at his level of quality, we got an absolute bargain since he didn’t count as a designated player. As you can tell, I liked Cesar a lot while he played for us.
Did you think he was a success, or just another failure of the Bloody Big Bust?