Jermain Defoe’s long-term relationship with Tottenham and the Premier League looks soon to be over. Strong suggestions from across the Atlantic point towards the completion of his move to Toronto FC as early as Monday.
The deal believed to be worth in the region of £5m would spell the end of a nine-year affiliation with Spurs that has seen him net 142 times in two separate stints at the club. Fifth on the clubs all time scoring list and Spurs’ all time leading European goalscorer, his departure will for many be greeted with a degree of sadness.
Indeed Defoe, whilst rarely a regular in recent seasons, has always been a loyal servant to his club and his importance will not be quickly forgotten. Primarily an impact sub, an ever-reliable Defoe has more often than not found ways of changing games from off the bench, and his resilience where others would be quick to sulk has made him into one of the most popular players to don the famous lilywhite in recent seasons.
If you put emotion to one side though, it is difficult to argue that this deal doesn’t suit either the player or clubs involved. Defoe may well be a loyal servant to Spurs, but he also owes it to himself to ensure he makes the best of the latter years of his career. There is no guarantee of game time at Spurs, and given his age and an upcoming World Cup to try to squeeze his way into, a move to another club makes a lot of sense. Prospective England players will not be picked sitting on the bench, and this is why first team assurances were paramount for Defoe going forward.
The only surprising part of the deal is the fact it is to an MLS side. I don’t doubt that Defoe will take the league by storm because given what he can do to Premier League defences he should have no trouble in North America. The main concern is to whether the standard is really high enough when England come calling, will a rampant few months in the US be enough for Defoe to cement his Brazil spot?
As with everything money does speak. Toronto are willing to make Defoe one of their limited over salary capped players, and I doubt many other sides would be willing to pay anything near his wage demands. For Spurs ensuring that a potent Defoe moves away from England would also have been a major stipulation of any prospective deal.
The concern for Spurs now is that they have left themselves a little short. A misfiring Soldado and resurgent Adebayor doesn’t seem enough to maintain their surge back towards the league’s summit. But this isn’t just a case of clearing out deadwood, its about reshaping the forward line at Spurs more generally.
Spurs at the moment seem pretty to have found serious imbalance in the striking department; Soldado and Defoe are both excellent poachers but are much too similar to form any cohesive partnership. If one was going to have to make way it was always going to be Defoe, at £26m Soldado was always going to be in the driving seat here. The sense is that Spurs will be looking towards a more complete forward to build around Soldado, Adebayor is currently doing an excellent job of this. A better 3rd choice striker would be someone like Harry Kane or perhaps a cheap deal from abroad, offering something a bit different off the bench rather than having to change like for like.
Defoe has been the perennial misfit at Spurs and it has been a real shame. For all his sensational goals and cameo’s he has more often than not failed really ever tie down a place within any settled strike partnership.
I think for most at the club this deal comes with a heavy heart, but given the length of contact at Spurs and his age, the £5m recouped will seem like a good deal for those at the club.