'I wanted to play for TFC': Keven Aleman
Canadian wanted to wait until after World Cup to make decision about his future
If Keven Aleman had his way, he'd still be a member of Toronto FC.
The 16-year-old midfielder from Brampton, Ont., is one of the brightest prospects in Canadian soccer and a star of the Canadian team that will compete at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Mexico next month.
He is also a player without a pro club to call is own. Last week, TFC released Aleman (a member of the team's junior academy squad) and Dino Gardiner and Jonathan Lao (senior academy players).
"We ask that our academy players sign a letter of commitment, which is an agreement between our club and player that they will receive the best training and development opportunities, with the goal of reaching the first team," said Aron Winter, TFC's head coach and coach and team technical director.
"These players have decided not to commit to our academy in order to pursue tryouts overseas."
Not so, according to Aleman.
The attacking midfielder maintains he didn't sign the letter of commitment because he wanted to wait until returning home from the World Cup, which runs from June 18 to July 10, before making a decision about his future.
"I wanted to play for TFC. I never said I had tryouts anywhere. I never said I wanted to go anywhere. I just said I wanted to wait until after the World Cup. I just wanted to focus on the World and see what would happen after that," Aleman told CBCSports.ca on Thursday.
Aleman maintains he would have considered signing the letter once the tournament in Mexico was over.
"I told them I wanted to stay with TFC. I wanted to play there and I wanted to be with the team. … I [just] wanted to leave the door open until after the World Cup," Aleman said.
He also refuted Winter's claim that he is pursuing tryouts with clubs from Europe, explaining that he doesn't have any trials lined up.
That said it is his ambition to one day play abroad.
"That's something I would love to do, to go play in Europe. I think it's everyone's dream to play in Europe," Aleman admitted.
Born in Costa Rica, Aleman made a name for himself at the CONCACAF championships in February when he scored three goals — including a brilliant solo effort in the quarter-finals against Trinidad & Tobago — and helped Canada win the silver medal.
By finishing runners-up, Canada qualified for the FIFA U-17 World Cup for the first time in 16 years.
Aleman's outstanding performances at the CONCACAF tournament did not go unnoticed by Winter. The Dutchman invited the teenager to join TFC's first team in South Carolina for the final stage of pre-season training.
The loss of Aleman, who has seven goals in 12 appearances for Canada's U-17 team, is a bit of a blow to TFC because of the teenager's potential, with many comparing him to former Reds captain Dwayne De Rosario.
Paul Mariner, TFC's director of player development, declined to comment when contacted by CBCSports.ca.