Toronto FC hope to have final word within the next week on whether KRC Genk attacking midfielder Alejandro Pozuelo will join the club, a source told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday.
Toronto, Genk and Pozuelo, who has five goals and 10 assists in 25 league appearances this season, have been engaged for weeks in a rather public back-and-forth about a potential transfer. As rumors swirled in Belgium that Pozuelo was looking to leave Genk, MLSsoccer.com reported on Feb. 8 that Toronto were interested in signing the 27-year-old as a Designated Player. Genk released a statement on Feb. 11 claiming that they reached an agreement with Pozuelo in January that he would remain with the club for the remainder of the Belgian Jupiler Pro League season. Pozuelo hit back at that assertion on Feb. 12, telling Voetbalkrant.com that he was “pressured” into the agreement. He also said that an unnamed club, who sources later confirmed as Toronto, agreed to pay Genk his €8 million release clause to acquire him. He made it clear that he wanted to leave Belgium immediately and threatened to take legal action if Genk did not accede to a move.
Genk, who are currently in first-place in the Belgian league, have since maintained their stance. Pozuelo even played in two matches since he made his comments, coming off the bench in Genk’s scoreless draw at Slavia Prague in the Europa League last Thursday and in their 3-1 league loss to Club Brugge on Sunday. All the while, TFC continued negotiating, with GM Ali Curtis reportedly meeting Genk's technical director to talk about the potential deal in New York City on Saturday.
Sources have repeatedly told MLSsoccer.com that the club initially hoped to get Pozuelo into camp prior to their Concacaf Champions League Round of 16 first leg at Panamanian club Independiente de la Chorrera on Tuesday (8 pm ET | YahooSports.com, TSN4). That’s no longer a possibility, but TFC, who sold star attackers Sebastian Giovinco and Victor Vazquez earlier this offseason, remain committed to bringing Pozuelo to Ontario as quickly as possible, with the source saying the club are still in talks with Genk about acquiring the Spaniard immediately.
Toronto are also considering other start dates. The source said that they’d be open to letting Pozuelo remain with Genk until the Belgian league regular season ends on March 17, at which point he’d move to Toronto. That option would put Pozuelo with TFC for 32 of their 34 MLS regular season matches, but it’d keep him away from Toronto until after the end of the CCL quarterfinals.
The source indicated that letting Genk keep Pozuelo through the end of the Belgian season is a significantly worse option for Toronto. Genk will be in action in the league at least through the weekend of May 18 and potentially until May 26. If they advance to the Europa League final, they won’t play their final match until May 29. All three potential end dates are well after the MLS primary transfer window closes on May 7. If he remained with Genk through the end of the season, Pozuelo wouldn’t be eligible to play for Toronto until the MLS secondary transfer window opens in July. The source wouldn’t completely rule out that option, but they said that TFC might have to move from Pozuelo to other DP targets before then.
Toronto aren’t only pursuing a Designated Player. Despite reports to the contrary, the source added that the club remains in talks with Argentine club Independiente about acquiring winger Jonathan Menendez on loan. Argentine outlets have linked Toronto to Menendez for several weeks, though several reported last Friday that the 24-year-old would remain with Independiente. Menendez joined Independiente in January 2018 and was loaned to Qatari club Al Rayyan in August. He recently returned to Argentina, where he made the bench but did not play in Independiente’s 1-1 draw at San Martin on Sunday. If a deal is reached, Toronto would use Targeted Allocation Money to sign Menendez.
Toronto will play the first leg of their CCL Round of 16 series at Independiente de la Chorrera on Tuesday night. TFC will host the Panamanians in the return leg at BMO Field next Tuesday. They’ll open their MLS campaign on March 2 at the Philadelphia Union.