The sale of Sebastian Giovinco

Weekly sports column for the 100 Mile Free Press

Toronto FC recently announced the sale of Sebastian Giovinco to Saudi club Al-Hilal at the end of January for an undisclosed fee (as is Major League Soccer policy) but believed to be somewhere in between $2 to 3 million.

It’s sad to see the team’s and (arguably) the league’s best player leave. He changed the middling club into a winner. Without him, it is unlikely that Toronto made any sort of impact on MLS other than being the first Canadian team in the league.

The Italian succeeded where the former designated player, Jermaine Defoe, had failed. Defoe only lasted 19 games in 2014 before returning to England.

As for Giovinco, he scored 83 goals in 142 appearances for Toronto across all competitions and was essential to the team’s treble-winning season in 2017.

Defoe made the team a laughing stock in the soccer world, while Giovinco turned the club into a force to be reckoned with.

Obviously, it would be great if Toronto could retain Giovinco’s services, but team president Bill Manning said Giovinco, who had one year left on his contract, would not except anything less than the $7.1 million he was currently making. The Italian could not agree with an offer from TFC’s camp, so the team decided to sell rather than lose him as a free agent at the end of the upcoming season. It was a smart move, despite some time still remaining to figure it out (however, players are able to sign contracts with a different club with only six months left on their contract).

The parting has not been very amicable.

It has been hard for fans to accept, with the fanbase being split into pro-Giovinco and Pro-TFC camps.

Adding to that, there is a new general manager in Ali Curtis who will be looking to make his own mark on Toronto. His biggest challenge will be adding a player of Giovinco’s calibre.

Rumour has it, that this signing is pretty close and whomever that may be, will likely be a lot younger than the 32-year-old who just left for Saudi Arabia.

Sofiane Hanna, the Algerian attacking midfielder, rumoured to take over the vacated designated player spot is underwhelming, if true. In his own right, Hanna is a good player, creative and in his prime and would be good for TFC. But he’s already 28 and doesn’t have the same accolades or winning pedigree as Giovinco.

Toronto should also be looking more for a striker opposed to an attacking midfielder. Under coach Greg Vanney, Giovinco has typically been used up front alongside Jozy Altidore.

After Altidore, who is 29, there is very little depth in Toronto’s attack. Ayo Akinola only appeared in four games last season, Jordan Hamilton only 14. There is also Jon Bakero and newcomer Griffin Dorsey. None of these players has realized their full potential and not viable replacements for Giovinco.

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