TORONTO – After months of transfer rumors linking him to a move back to England, Toronto FC’s brass said Thursday that they expect Jermain Defoe back in TFC red for the 2015 season.
Speaking to reporters during a meeting outlining the team’s vision for the future, general manager Tim Bezbatchenko and head coach Greg Vanney said that while the club will consider its options for Defoe during the January transfer window, the expectation is that he will be returning to play for Toronto FC next year.
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“Jermain, we’re planning on him getting back,” Bezbatchenko said. “He logs into his account on Sports Office [an online player-management system with a daily line of communication with the coaching staff] and just a couple days ago, he started running on the field. If someone comes and there’s an offer, we’ll consider it. We’re planning to have him on our team but we have contingencies, and if he happens not to be here, we have a plan.”
Defoe was the subject of transfer talk throughout the end of the summer transfer window in August, with a move to QPR the most widely rumored, but the club turned down a reported record-high transfer fee to keep the English forward in Canada. Bezbatchenko says that while he is taking calls and emails regularly for many of his players, part of his job is having plans in place in order to ensure the club remains strong, regardless of who stays or goes.
“In this business, you have to be nimble and you have to be able to plan for multiple contingencies,” said Bezbatchenko, who made clear that any decision made would not be purely financially motivated. “If an offer comes in January, maybe it comes in summer, you evaluate it then and you ask yourself, ‘are you prepared to move on without that player at that time?’ and right now I think we’re in a position to answer those questions.
“To our point, whether or not it’s Jermain Defoe or anyone else on our roster, we have names that we are actively vetting, watching films on those names and speaking to clubs about those names.”
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Bezbatchenko also told media that Defoe’s medical staff has informed the club that the player is progressing and is expected to be fully healthy heading into 2015
The second-year GM also confirmed plans to retain striker Gilberto, who, like Defoe, has been the subject of much interest.
“Gilberto, he obviously found his form and we’ve always said that international players can take some time, especially one that has never played abroad before,” Bezbatchenko said. “I think, with Gilberto, if we get him into scoring positions, I think he’ll score a number of goals this year. He has a great attitude and I think, at times, he [played] out of position but right now, he’s in our plans just like Jermain.”