One calendar year can change quite a bit in the world of soccer, and even more in the world of MLS soccer.
It was on January 13th, 2014 that Jermain Defoe told fans in Toronto that he was ready for a new challenge, a new league. It was on January 13th, 2015 that he was transferred to Sunderland of the BPL in a cash and swap deal reportedly worth in the area of $11 million and the rights to US international Jozy Altidore.
“To come here and to have a reception like that is unbelievable. Such a great feeling. I feel at home already.”
Jermain’s 2014 MLS campaign was haunted by nagging hamstring and groin injuries. No one can fault him for that. He produced 11 goals in his 14 game career with TFC. Then things just seemed to fall apart following the firing of coach Ryan Nelsen and pretty much his entire staff. But the question that everyone should be asking themselves is, at what point in the season did he mail it in? Rumours speculated that Jermain sent a text message to the departed coach saying “If you’re gone, I’m gone…” or something along those lines. Nothing was confirmed by player or coach.
What all this really shows is that, Jermain was not ready for any new challenge, and had his sights set on that extremely large paycheque he was guaranteed to receive whether he played or not. When TFC appeared at his front door and gave him several million reasons why he would be the right fit, he decided now was the right time to cash in, and cash in he did.
According to MLS salary numbers, he was the 3rd highest paid player in the league in guaranteed compensation ($6.18 million) behind only Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey.
If that figure is correct, simple math tells us he made approximately $440k per appearance, each goal costing $560k.
I don’t think fans can hate on the guy for coming here for the money. If anyone was approached and offered a ridiculous salary and given the opportunity to be the centerpiece of a club in hopes of securing a spot on your national team in a World Cup year, I would find it hard to believe anyone who says they would turn it down.
What fans can hate on him for is him lying to us. This would’ve been far less controversial if Defoe or even his agent just came out directly and stated that he or his client did not want to play for Toronto or in MLS as a whole. Instead of feeding us the load of garbage story that you felt at home, just tell us the truth, instead of criticizing the fans who love this club dearly for questioning your professionalism.
What this whole scenario taught each and every person involved is that yes, there is in fact a right and a wrong DP. Defoe was clearly the wrong one. The intention of developing the DP rule is to bring in a player that would be the leader and a clutch performer to boost the team around him. Defoe fit none of those characteristics. In fact, I’d go so far as to call him a mercenary. He came to town, played almost half of the season on his terms, gave the fans a few cheers and a truck load of hope, then faded away into the sunset carrying his big bag of money and whatever belongings he had left in the city of Toronto, if he had any at all.
TFC was here before Jermain Defoe, and it will be here long after Jermain Defoe. Good luck to him and I hope he’s finally happy. But if his happiness is tied to winning, even though he somehow reported is getting a salary increase, then one can only assume his new club, Sunderland AFC, currently sitting just 3 points clear of relegation, will probably not give him much relief. The pissed off fans of Toronto FC who have paid for their tickets with their hard earned cash, allowing club management to pay Defoe so handsomely should be allowed to have a chuckle to themselves should their one time savior find himself playing Championship soccer next season.
What still remains to be seen is how this silly allocation process will play itself out in the now curious case of Jozy Altidore. I find it hard to believe that anyone else in this league will pony up enough cash to steal him away from Toronto, barring Red Bulls management having an epiphany and wanting to restore some of the faith their fans had in them before this Mike Petke fiasco. Montreal currently sits 1st in the allocation ranking. I find it very hard to imagine the Impact giving that spot up too easily to their arch rivals…I know if it was TFC who had 1st rights and the Impact came knocking, I’d making them give up everything including their first born. But I’m not going to wade into this because I barely understand the rules myself. But what I’m starting to realize is just how silly and restrictive this whole single entity idea is.
MLS 3.0 or MLS Next as they refer to it, should be the opportunity to take the training wheels off this whole operation. Allowing a third party team who had nothing to do with the cash and swap deal between Toronto and Sunderland, the right to make a profit off of this just seems ridiculous and even harder to understand for those who have even less of an understanding of this league but are trying.
In regards to Altidore, what I will say is, should all of this go Toronto FC’s way, I’m somewhat excited to see him play in a TFC kit. He’s a strong and skilled striker who can hold up play and score goals. To see him partnered with his national team teammate Michael Bradley will be interesting to watch as well. Although Jozy has struggled in the UK, he flourished during his first stint in MLS as a teenager and killed it in the Eredivisie. For those who are worried, I would imagine his production would fall somewhere between those two periods in his career. Is he worth somewhere between 5 and 6 million like the rumours suggest? I don’t think so, but then again, it’s not necessarily my money. Sometimes in MLS, overpaying is a necessary evil. There are other glaring needs that TFC should focus on as well, like a winger, an attacking midfielder, and a definitely central defender or two.
The next few days and weeks will tell us a lot about how TFC’s opening day lineup will look. Entry Draft day will probably be filled with much more movement than in past years, and who knows, maybe it’ll even help sort out the Jozy Altidore sweep stakes. Stay tuned. Silly season is far from over.
(image courtesy of Tom Szczerbowski/USA Today Sports)