Editor’s note: we were about to publish this moments before news broke yesterday. Now, though, it still has value as a discussion of whether or not Toronto FC did the right thing in selling Sebastian Giovinco.
Late in the cult classic ‘Rounders’, there is a scene where the character played by John Malkovich looks across the table, realizes that his adversary has earned it, and proven himself.
“Pay him” he says. “Pay that man his money”.
After mixed messages, rumours, reports of transfers and bad feelings, one doesn’t expect Bill Manning to utter those same words looking at Sebastian Giovinco, but should he be?
Everyone within a spitting distance of Toronto FC fandom knows how dark the period was during Jermain Defoe’s final months, and the highs that were ushered in the next 3 seasons coinciding with the arrival of Giovinco.
Decks were built, roofs were added, suites and club areas were created, and a whole lot of jerseys and scarves were sold. Oh, and a bunch of trophies were won. Including a treble in the 2017 season, and a run in the CONCACAF Champions League that became the new benchmark for what an MLS club could hope to achieve.
That’s a well told story.
What I’m here to ponder; is Giovinco still worth it…on the field?
From a purely ‘eye test’, it looked as if Giovinco took a step back last season, with the drop off in goal scoring, but yet at times on offense, he still looked like a force of nature. Making timely attacks, drawing multiple defenders, making passes for Jozy Altidore and Jonathan Osorio and playing a role further back in the attacking third. It seemed that Giovinco had settled into a role that was first expected of him when he joined over from Juventus, before pleasantly surprising us all as an absolute goal-scoring monster.
A look over at whoscored.com, gives Giovinco an overall rating of 7.53, the highest on the team, and the only player other than Osorio to earn a score of above 7. His 13 goals and 15 assists in MLS competition lead the team in both categories, and his shots on goal of 51 was only 1 off of 2017 and 7 off of his 2016 numbers. In fact his shots per game of 6, is triple that of Jozy Altidore, the next closest TFC player. You can’t score if you don’t shoot, and you can’t shoot if you don’t have the ball. The numbers suggest that Giovinco can get the ball, and shoot it, and yet still manages to create for the others around him.
If there’s a slippage in his play, it’s certainly not evident by the amount of minutes he played last season or in the amount of shots that he’s taken. While he may have scored less, he’s still the driver of the offense for this club. It may be a painful lesson to learn that without Giovinco, Altidore and Osorio are not nearly as explosive or effective.
While I don’t advocate sports teams paying for past performance or based off of sentimental value, Giovinco isn’t a faded star hanging around too long. He’s a relatively young 32 (as of last week), in that he didn’t log tonnes of minutes early on his young career with Juventus. This isn’t a player who had been run into the ground by the time he hit 30. Giovinco will never reach those electrifying heights of 2015 and 2016 again, where every game left your jaw on the floor, but in a role of attacking midfielder (recently vacated by the departed Victor Vazquez), Giovinco can surely generate value above whatever replacement the club can get under TAM. Add to that his prowess as one of the worlds’ elite free kick takers, and there’s a sure case that Sebastian Giovinco is worth a short-term extension as one of the highest paid players in MLS.
For a club whose only success has come within the last 3 seasons, and is still building a bond with casual sports fans in the Greater Toronto Area, it’s worthwhile to rewind it back and give it one more run in domestic and CONCACAF play.
Giovinco is still a DP player, not for past heroics, but for what he still can contribute. If MLSE can find $6.9 million for William Nylander, surely the most important player in Toronto FC history can be made whole also.