Ali Curtis finally got his man.
The protracted transfer saga of Alejandro Pozuelo has been resolved as Toronto FC announced on Monday that the 27-year-old will joining them from Belgian club KRC Genk on March 18 as a designated player.
“He's a creative No. 10, a maestro,” said TFC general manager Curtis on a conference call Monday afternoon. “He's very dynamic, can create chances, but he's also capable of putting the ball in the back of the net.”
“He's in the prime of his career, healthy, athletic, will be able to move around the field,” continued Curtis. “One of the things that we really like is his character. We're excited to add another leader into our locker room and good human being into club. We're going to be asking a lot of him, but we know he can handle it.”
Curtis called it “the most difficult signing I have ever been a part of or seen when you include the years I worked at [the] MLS [league office].” He said the only one that came close was when the Seattle Sounders acquired Obafemi Martins from Spanish club Levante UD in 2013.
The Pozuelo pursuit began mid-January when Sebastian Giovinco was transferred to Saudi Arabia.
“The question you then have to answer is not how do you replace Sebastian, but how do you move forward?” began Curtis. “His leaving meant that we needed to refocus and shift what we're doing with the roster in the moment, knowing it would have an impact on the long term as well.”
“Having to figure out the decision of what next, how do we move forward, added on to who do we sign, how do we do that, where that player comes from. Added on transfer windows closing. Added on we needed to do the necessary research and due diligence to make a signing of this size,” detailed Curtis. “All that had to happen very quickly. I can't tell you how many miles I've spent flying between here and Brussels.”
“He was the best player on the best club in Belgium,” added the GM. “They didn't want to let him go for obvious reasons.”
Details of the transfer fee paid and the length of the contract were not disclosed, but Curtis did note this was a “sizable investment” and a “long-term deal.”
Curtis and the rest of the TFC staff used all tools available in making sure Pozuelo was the right fit.
“Watching games, whether in person or video, you get a sense of what they can bring on game days; that's only half the story,” emphasized Curtis. “It's important we understand what type of person they are at the training ground as well. Those things off the field impact the culture and environment. We were able to complete that, felt good about the feedback we got.”
“He's a team-first type of guy,” added Curtis. “He's been a leader at his team, the captain, you know he's been in situations where he has had to be a big part of what they're doing.”
“You can have big players, but we believe the strength of the team is the team, no one player is above that,” concluded Curtis. “He fits into that well.”