Tottenham striker Jermain Defoe is on the verge of completing a £6,000,000 move to MLS side Toronto, according to Sky Sports.
The transfer, which has been rumoured for months, will be the most expensive transfer in MLS history and Defoe will be the latest in a string of players to quit the Premier League for the US, following Clint Dempsey who also moved to Toronto from Spurs.
Defoe, who hasn’t scored a single goal in 12 league games this season, will hope that the move will reignite his season and force himself back into the England team before the start of the World Cup this summer.
But I believe he will be unable to do so.
It has been shown in the past that English players playing abroad doesn’t always work very well. And the MLS is even worse. David Beckham’s move to LA Galaxy in 2007 arguably was the beginning of the end of his England career. If he had instead moved back into the Premier League, where it is known that he had numerous offers, or even just remained in Europe, the chances of holding down a regular national spot would have been much greater. He only added a further 16 appearances to his 99 after his move to Los Angeles and made his last ever appearance less than two years later in 2009. Many people argue that he could’ve played at international level for another year at least if he had stayed in Europe. However, on the flip side, the European leagues – Premier League, Serie A, La Liga, etc. are all a lot more competitive than the MLS and as such the play is more vigorous and requires a lot more fitness, so in that respect you could argue that the move to America prolonged his England career slightly.
Anyway, I digress.
Defoe’s move to the MLS means that, not only is he playing in worse competitions with, and no disrespect intended, a much worse quality of player, he will struggle to hold down his England spot. Additionally, it will make it much harder for Roy Hodgson and his coaching staff to watch Defoe play, as obviously it is going to be much more difficult to go to Canada to watch Toronto than it is to go to London and watch Spurs.
The former Portsmouth and West Ham player will hook up with former Tottenham teammate Clint Dempsey, who has just moved on loan to Fulham during the MLS off-season, and ex-Spurs defender Ryan Nelsen, who took his first step into professional management with Toronto.
Obviously, as every footballer will, Defoe will say that the incentive for the move was more playing time and taking his chance of a great opportunity. But there’s every chance that the real incentive, as it so often is these days, is the monetary gain. David Beckham’s initial contract with LA Galaxy was worth over US$35.2million a year, which is surely to have risen during the five years he spent there. As football is still a growing sport within the USA and Canada, the owners and organisers will want to attract as many high profile names as possible in order to get fans interested, and the way of doing this is simply handing out multi-million dollar contracts to entice the players to pack their bags and play for them. Of course, there’s every chance that for Jermain Defoe this isn’t the case and he genuinely wants to get more playing time and take advantage of the opportunity to experience football in the MLS, but if you ask me it is unlikely. A player of Defoe’s calibre and experience would have no problem getting into the starting XI of most teams in the Premiership – with teams such as West Ham desperate for strikers and Defoe desperate to get some games and score some goals, a move like this would have been ideal and there is no way West Ham would have turned down the chance should they have been given it. As we have seen so often in the past, regardless of your form it is almost impossible to get into the England team unless you play for one of the best clubs in the Premier League, for reasons which nobody except the brains behind the Wembley doors will understand. Players such as Stewart Downing and Ashley Young have been picked in the past because they play for Liverpool and Manchester United, despite being in terrible form or not even getting games.
Only recently Roy Hodgson has started to pick players from clubs outside the ‘Top 6’, with players from Southampton, Everton and even Crystal Palace being handed England debuts. Because of this, moving to a team like West Ham or a mid-table team in the Premier League would have in no way hindered Defoe’s chances of getting into the World Cup squad. But moving to Toronto will, which is why the monetary incentive is probably why Defoe will move to Toronto, and because of it I don’t think he will be a regular pick for England again, unless of course he goes on a complete rampage and scores a shed load of goals. Which is highly unlikely. If you ask me it has just paved the way for Rickie Lambert, Jay Rodriguez etc. to step up and stake a regular claim to their England spots.
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