Toronto FC is looking at real grass for BMO Field
Sale of Maurice Edu could lead to the end of disliked turf on home pitch
Maurice Edu is headed for greener pastures with Glasgow Rangers, but the U.S. international midfielder could leave a green legacy of his own in Toronto.
Mo Johnston, director of football for Toronto FC, said Tuesday he may try to use his club's share of Edu's US$5-million transfer fee to replace the FieldTurf at BMO Field with natural grass.
The sale, widely reported on both sides of the Atlantic, was finally confirmed by Toronto FC on Tuesday, pending the 22-year-old California native securing a work permit to play in Scotland. The delay in confirming the deal was due to MLS red tape.
One-third of the transfer fee goes to the league, which as a single entity owns the rights to all its players, and two-thirds to Toronto's coffers.
Of that, $500,000 will go towards player allocation money that can be spent over 18 months starting next year and is used on salary or to buy a player, with the rest is earmarked towards the club's soccer operations such as facilities and youth programs.
"We'll make a proposal to the [MLS] board in terms of can we put it towards a practice facility. Maybe a grass field, which I think is vital and important in moving forward. Then obviously the academy," Johnston told reporters.
If the club was to replace the stadium turf, it would need to build a nearby practice facility with turf to meet commitments to the city of Toronto, which provided the stadium land in exchange in part for a year-round facility that could be used by local residents.
In winter, a bubble is put over the field to allow that.
The FieldTurf at BMO Field was state of the art when installed, but many players don't like playing on turf and it has turned off some from coming to Toronto.
Johnston drafted Edu first overall in the MLS SuperDraft and said while he will miss his talents, he could understand the midfielder following his dream of European football. He also could see the MLS side.
"It's a lot of money," he said. "You can't knock that back. You have to take it."
Edu will also benefit financially. His MLS salary was listed at $157,500 US this year and Johnston said he can look forward to that going up "probably seven or eight times."
"I don't think for him it's about the salary, it's about how far he can take his future," Johnston added. "It's a stepping stone going to Rangers. Can he make the [English] Premiership? It's now up to him."
Edu is the latest in a line of MLS stars to head overseas, following in the recent footsteps of goalkeeper Brad Guzan (Aston Villa, England), forward Jozy Alitdore (Villarreal, Spain) and midfielder-forward Freddy Adu (Benfica, Portugal).
"It happens in every business. You can't hold these young kids back," Johnston said. "The fans will see players come and go within MLS all the time. It happens in every team."
Still it was clear that the day's dealings were bittersweet for Johnston.
"I'm sad to see him go," he said. "When you have that sort of money sitting on the table, it's difficult to hold a young kid like that back.
"His future now is over there. We need to move on. I have to find the next one."