Toronto FC made their first big splash of a potentially formative offseason on Friday, inking promising Brazilian striker Gilberto as the fifth Designated Player in the franchise history.
Gilberto, 24, comes to Toronto from Brazilian side Portuguesa after establishing himself as one of the best young attackers in his native country, where he was the sixth-leading scorer in the 2013 Brazilian Série A.
“Gilberto is a great DP addition to our roster,” Toronto FC general manager Tim Bezbatchenko in a statement. “He’s young, incredibly talented and a proven goalscorer at every level he’s played. The Brazilian Série A is one of the best leagues in the world and acquiring a top striker from that league is a testament to the faith Gilberto has in what we are doing at our club.”
Gilberto becomes the second DP currently on the Toronto roster, joining Argentine midfielder Matias Laba to create a intriguing young, South American core as TFC look to end a seven-year run of playoff futility in 2014.
Reportedly pursued by clubs in Spain, Italy and Germany, Gilberto becomes arguably Toronto’s best option up top along with relative club newcomer Bright Dike, traded from Portland in September.
“We promised our fans back in September that this club would make bold moves this offseason and that they should evaluate our progress in January," continued Bezbatchenko. "We feel that this is a key step and we will continue to work towards delivering on that promise over the next month.”
Dutch striker Danny Koevermans – who joined the team as a DP in 2011 but has battled injuries and appeared in just four games last season – is currently out of contract.
Gilberto flew into Toronto on Tuesday and reportedly joined Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment chairman Larry Tanenbaum in his courtside seats at the Toronto Raptors-San Antonio Spurs game and wore, among other cold-weather items to endure the Canadian winter, a Toronto FC scarf up to this ears.
“I’m coming to a very good side,” he told the Toronto Star via a translator. “I also appreciate the quality of life here. And I want to open a new market in Major League Soccer for Brazilians. The primary job is to win titles.”
Gilberto is the second Brazilian player added to the TFC roster in the past four days after a midweek trade for FC Dallas handyman Jackson. The team also dealt veteran winger Bobby Convey to the New York Red Bulls earlier in the day on Friday.