TORONTO – Toronto FC’s pursuit of Sebastian Giovinco started, as it often does in Italy, with a glass of wine.
At a restaurant in Turin, the two parties enjoyed a meal, shared some wine and got down to business, with TFC general manager Tim Bezbatchenko seeking the signature of a player in the prime of his career.
Giovinco had offers from big teams across Europe, and Bezbatchenko remains coy about exactly how he managed to pull off the signature of the Italian international, hinting that the “customary, traditional things you do at an Italian meal were done and said." Ultimately, it came down to the vision of the club, according to Giovinco’s agent, Andrea D’Amico.
“This is the moment that we have been waiting for,” D’Amico said in a conference call on Monday. “We’re tired of just only talk, talk, talk. We wanted a real project. We believe in this project, and we believe in MLS and Toronto FC. We are ready to begin now, at this age, a new experience and a new era for soccer in North America, because, in my opinion, the future of soccer is in North America.”
Toronto is home to a large population of Italian-Canadians, a factor D’Amico says helped convince Giovinco to join Major League Soccer. Equally important was the vision outlined by the club brass for Giovinco and the opportunity it presented for the 27-year-old Italian international to become a pioneer for the league.
“When we got into contact with Toronto FC, we saw such a beautiful project and met such nice people,” D’Amico said. “It was so exciting for us to [take] a new step in his career. I think the importance of this signing is not only for one player or one club. It’s an iconic deal for MLS, and so we are very proud to be in this deal and to be a part of this new project.”
Bezbatchenko started planning for the signing of Giovinco at the end of the 2014 season, after he and head coach Greg Vanney discussed the team's need for a creative attacking midfielder in the final third of the field.
In the end, Bezbatchenko did get the signature of the "Atomic Ant," and he explained that many of the lessons he learned from the Jermain Defoe transfer were put into practice this time around: namely, making clear the commitment the club need from their star players.
“Well, I think for him, this wasn’t about just coming to TFC; this was about a larger project, of being a trailblazer for the league as the league grows,” Bezbatchenko said. “This time, we’re meeting halfway with the player. He’s just as excited as we are to be with this club. Anything’s possible now. Noticing that the attitude toward the league has changed, anything’s possible in this league if you really commit to it and help them understand what this league’s about and where it’s going.”