‘I want to come back.’ Sebastian Giovinco approaches Toronto FC

Sebastian Giovinco doesn’t like interviews very much, if you’re honest, but he feels like the time is right to speak up.

The former Toronto FC forward is the club’s all-time top scorer and was Major League Soccer’s most valuable player in 2015. Last year he was included in a list of the top 25 players in Major League Soccer. And he has been the subject of a rumored return to the club since a somewhat controversial departure in 2019, after he took the organization to new heights during his four-year tenure.

The reports have only escalated since August, when the 34-year-old and his most recent club, Saudi giant Al Hilal, mutually terminated their contract. A month later, Atomic Ant, as he is known at BMO Field, was back at the family stadium, watching his former team take on Nashville SC from a luxurious box alongside his former teammate up front, Jozy Altidore. Even Reds designated player Alejandro Pozuelo said last month that “I would also like to play with Giovinco, for example” when asked what type of forward he thought would best complement his skills.

As for Giovinco’s position, he made his sentiment clear in an interview last week.

“I want to go back,” said Giovinco.

That has been his message to the Reds almost since he left, Giovinco said. He said he has regularly approached the club, trying to find a way back to a city and a team that feels like home.

It wasn’t as if Giovinco’s time in Saudi Arabia was anything but a great experience. Soccer was competitive. Al Hilal won the 2019 Asian Soccer Confederation Champions League, the Saudi Professional League title and the Saudi Arabian King’s Cup, becoming the first Asian club to complete a continental treble since 1987. Soccer culture he was so fervent in Saudi Arabia that Giovinco couldn’t leave. your home without being recognized.

But the first three or four months after the transfer to Al Hilal were tough. Giovinco hadn’t wanted to leave the Reds and was upset about the break.

So he tried to rebuild a relationship with the club, which had soured during previous contract negotiations and after Giovinco wrote in an Instagram post at the time of his departure that Toronto’s contract offer and lack of transparency suggested that his focus was not on winning. He also hoped the hand would eventually lead him back to the club.

Today, Giovinco says that the breakdown of talks with the Reds in 2019 was “my mistake.” He fired his previous agent, Andrea D’Amico, in 2019, although he did not elaborate on the circumstances surrounding the firing.

Former Toronto FC forward Sebastian Giovinco says he would consider a contract in which he is not a designated player.

“I think so, it was my mistake because I trusted people,” said Giovinco. “I didn’t know how it was going.”

Giovinco said he and his current agent, Andrea Cattoli, have met with TFC bosses a couple of times since he terminated his contract with Al Hilal, though he said none of those conversations have been very serious.

“Just, ‘We love you … but the budget, all these kinds of things,'” Giovinco said.

There could be room for the forward in the Reds squad. New coach Bob Bradley is leading a restart for the club, which finished penultimate in 2021 with a goal difference of minus 27. Team president Bill Manning has said he expects “significant” roster changes. TFC could use a creative-minded player and goalscorer.

Giovinco scored 12 goals in 57 appearances in all competitions for Al Hilal. That’s a slower conversion rate than he produced in Toronto, but he said he was playing a deeper role in midfield. A return to the Reds would likely result in a higher move on the field for Giovinco, or many trades with Pozuelo on the field.

“Somebody says, ‘Ah, you don’t score too much,'” Giovinco said. “But if they don’t see the game, they will never be able to tell, because I played completely different than I played at TFC.”

Giovinco said he would hope to be the best player on the field if he returned to TFC, believing his talent is worthy of a designated player tag. As it stands, Toronto already has a league maximum of three designated players in Pozuelo, Altidore and Yeferson Soteldo under contract, but reports of possible departures have swirled at both Altidore and Soteldo this offseason.

He wanted the details of the “fair” contract he has in mind between the club and himself to be kept, but Giovinco refuted reports that he is asking for too much money. He said he’s not asking to be among the top five or 10 highest paid players in the league, as Pozuelo and Altidore were in 2021.

When asked if he would consider a contract like the one awarded in December 2019 to Captain Michael Bradley, who took a $ 6.5 million pay cut on a three-year contract and lost his designated player status, Giovinco said he would consider something. similar. .

“It’s not nice being the best player on the field and not being designated a player, but I close an eye for TFC,” he said. “But only for TFC.”

Giovinco’s desire to return to Toronto is clear and he wants to play another three or four seasons before considering retiring, but he said he can only wait so far for a decision from the Reds.

“I say no (to one) couple, maybe more than one couple, teams because I want to come back here to play here for TFC,” Giovinco said. “But now we are in four months. I think it is enough to wait and say no to the teams. We have to start talking if we want to talk; if not, I have to think of other options. “

“If I’m still without a team, still without (a) contract, it’s because I want to play here again, but I can’t decide for myself … we have to find a solution to find out how I can get back here.”

Giovinco knows he would return to a team that is in a different position in MLS than it was when he left. He saw firsthand when he visited BMO Field in September that the atmosphere in the stadium had changed, in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic. TFC remains a resourceful club and a leading candidate for a recovery year in 2022 under Bob Bradley, but is now two years away from playing in the MLS Cup.

What made the Reds good in the past may not be the same thing that will make them good in the future, Michael Bradley said earlier this offseason, but Giovinco believes there is an element of the good old days that could mark the difference.

“To bring me back,” he said. “First step.”

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