TORONTO – While Toronto FC supporters are universally ecstatic about the arrival of English striker Jermain Defoe to their club and to Major League Soccer, The Guardian seems to be somewhat less impressed.
In an article released two days before Defoe was officially unveiled in Toronto, a writer for the British daily called the England international’s move from Tottenham to TFC “a dead end” and stated that “this is the moment, unfortunately, when we should probably stop taking Defoe's career seriously.”
Asked for his thoughts on the article, MLS’ newest Designated Player was succinct.
“At the end of the day, I have always said that everyone is entitled to their own opinion,” Defoe told MLSsoccer.com after his official Toronto FC unveiling on Monday. “Whoever wrote that article, good luck to him. It’s their opinion, and I’m sure they’ve never played football before.”
TFC head coach Ryan Nelsen, who played for seven years in England during his own career, was not shy in providing his own insight into both the article in question and the English press as a whole.
“What you have to understand is that the papers over in England give a bit and they take a bit,” Nelsen said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if a certain club official has made a call to help out their own public relations situation because at the moment we are probably the envy of 18 Premier League clubs who would have snapped Jermaine Defoe up in a heartbeat.
“Obviously, from a public relations standpoint, things happen that are not very good for a certain club and that are good for others. These things happen really often in England, and you learn quickly not to take them too seriously.”
Nelsen said The Guardian would be surprised by the number of Premier League players he fields calls from who are “desperate to come over here.”
“It would probably shock his article right off the paper,” Nelsen said. “That’s the reality, but fiction is what he writes.”
Ultimately, as a player who had spent the entirety of his career in England prior to his move to Toronto, Defoe certainly did not come across in any way wounded by any particular article. He sounded very much like an Englishman who isn’t expecting to have any second thoughts about having made the big move across the Atlantic.
“[Criticism] is part and parcel of being footballer and playing at the top level,” Defoe said. “But the fact of the matter is that it all comes down to how you feel, how your family feels and where you are at in your career. If you believe that you want to move to a different club in a different league in another country, then so be it.”