Toronto FC GM says club turned down record transfer deal for Jermain Defoe

TORONTO – Jermain Defoe isn’t going anywhere.

Toronto FC general manager Tim Bezbatchenko announced on Monday that the club considered but ultimately turned down a big-money offer from an anonymous club abroad to keep Defoe at TFC for the team’s stretch run.

“Toronto FC received a record transfer offer for Jermain Defoe. I’m here to tell everyone today that we can confirm that we have declined the offer,” Bezbatchenko told reporters via conference call. “We wouldn’t be doing proper service to the club if we didn’t examine the offer and explore our options.”

While Bezbatchenko did not reveal the name of the club interested, he insisted the offer was the biggest for a TFC player in franchise history, and that it was “right up there with the highest transfer fee ever received from MLS, if not exceeded.”

English Premier League clubs Arsenal, Queens Park Rangers and Leicester City were all linked to Defoe in the days leading up to Monday’s close of the European summer transfer window, and QPR manager Harry Redknapp told Sky Sports that the club was interested in bringing on Defoe.

"Jermain wanted to come, and we were hoping to get Jermain ..." said Redknapp, who coached Defoe with Tottenham. "It was difficult for them to relase him and they were looking to get into the playoffs. It was hard. We didn't want to disrupt their club and everything else, so we moved on."

Bezbatchenko, meanwhile, said he made his decision to keep Defoe early Monday afternoon, and that the star striker is still under a multi-year contract to stay in Toronto.

“In the offseason, again, people will make offers, they always do, and we’ll go through the same steps where we take in all the information at the time,” Bezbatechenko said. “So, as of now, yes, there’s no reason he wouldn’t be with us [next year].”

Toronto FC’s announcement on Monday came less than 24 hours after the club officially parted ways with head coach Ryan Nelsen. Bezbatechenko told reporters on Monday that Defoe was frustrated with the direction of the team during a rough stretch of just three wins in the past 13 games.

“Moving forward, he understands why we made the change,” Bezbatchenko said. “Jermain is a true professional. He shows a commitment to his teammates and he’s going to be back. That’s just the way it is.”

Defoe enjoyed a solid start to the season with the Reds and was among the league’s leading scorers for much of the spring, but injures have slowed his pace this summer. He’s battled both hamstring and groin issues and appeared in just two of the team’s past seven matches, most recently a 77-minute shift against Chicago on Aug. 23 that ended with Nelsen telling reporters Defoe’s movement was extremely limited.

The Reds are hopeful Defoe can return for the team’s Sept. 6 match against the Philadelphia Union, but Nelsen reports out of Toronto indicate he might not return until the end of the month.

Ultimately, Bezbatchenko said, being this involved in Europe’s deadline day is a sign that Toronto FC have grown in global stature. 

“This is new for everyone in Toronto, I know,” Bezbatchenko said. “This is a part of being a big club, being in the mix and in conversations about players with clubs around the world. This is new for us. This wasn’t a distraction for us; we welcome these conversations and we’re comfortable having other clubs look at our players.”