Jermain Defoe back in town with Toronto FC
Manager Vanney won't know striker's fitness level until he's on pitch
Jermain Defoe is back in Toronto, but the question remains for how long.
Is he here for the duration of his lucrative MLS contract with Toronto FC or is this just a stopover until the international transfer window reopens in January?
The star striker flew in Monday after nursing a groin injury back home in England. He was met by club officials and will likely have a soft re-entry into club ranks with the team having a scheduled off day Tuesday.
The 31-year-old England forward has missed 12 games this season through injury or suspension but still leads the team in scoring with 11 goals in 16 MLS contests. He has played 150 minutes with appearances in two of TFC's 11 league games since July 19.
Toronto (10-11-7) hosts the Portland Timbers on Saturday but Defoe may be held back until the following weekend for an Oct. 4 game against the Galaxy in Los Angeles.
Manager Greg Vanney has said he won't know how fit Defoe is until he sees him on the training pitch. Vanney has said Defoe is anxious to be back but the long-term forecast remains cloudy.
Stories have swirled about Defoe's future since manager Ryan Nelsen was fired Aug 31 and news that the club had turned down a franchise-record transfer fee for Defoe at the closing of the summer transfer window.
Tim Leiweke, the outgoing CEO of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment who brought Defoe to Toronto, told a group of Ryerson MBA students recently that he does not expect Defoe to be back next season.
But no one has said anything concrete on the record.
Back in England, the Daily Mirror reported on the weekend that West Ham and Queens Park Rangers both plan to go after Defoe when the transfer window reopens in January. A public poll on the English tabloid's website had 85 per cent of respondents, as of late Monday afternoon, expecting Defoe to be back in January in the Premier League.
Defoe is expected to talk publicly Wednesday for the first time since disappearing into an injury black hole.
He has limited himself to two tweets in the interim, wishing his teammates good luck and saying he can't wait to get back to scoring goals.
Defoe has missed the last five games since coming off in the 77rd minute of a 2-2 tie with the Chicago Fire on Aug 23. He was out the three games before the Chicago contest.
Team officials said the injury problems were all related to the groin area, pointing to Defoe's back-to back English and MLS campaigns.
Should Defoe make his return in Los Angeles, he would have five regular-season games left to help Toronto's playoff push.