Jermain Defoe strikes deal with Toronto FC
Tottenham striker will arrive prior to start of MLS season
Tottenham striker Jermain Defoe has agreed to join Toronto FC at the end of February.
The 31-year-old Defoe has scored 142 goals during two spells at Tottenham and is the club's top scorer in European competitions.
“We are thrilled, for our club and for our fans, with the opportunity to bring a global football superstar like Jermain Defoe to Toronto FC,” Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment president and CEO Tim Leiweke said in a statement released by the club.
“We promised our fans in October that building a winning club was our top priority and we scoured the globe to find the right players to fulfill that promise.”
Toronto FC reportedly is nearing a deal with U.S. international midfielder Michael Bradley and already has former MLS MVP Dwayne De Rosario back in the fold.
Tottenham has at least nine matches to play before Defoe leaves for MLS. Toronto opens its 2014 season March 15 in Seattle.
The late February departure seems to be a compromise. Defoe will miss almost all of Toronto's pre-season but should arrive game-ready.
Defoe says "everybody knows how much this club means to me and I will play my heart out for the team and the fans until my last kick for the club."
The five-foot-seven Defoe has scored more than 200 goals in all competitions in his club career. He has 19 goals in 55 appearances for England, scoring the winner against Slovenia at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
Club career stalled
In the summer of 2012, Defoe signed a one-year contract extension that would have kept him at Spurs until July 2015. But his club career stalled this season under recently fired manager Andre Villas-Boas.
Born in East London, Defoe was 14 when left home for two years upon winning a scholarship to the F.A. National School of Excellence at Lilleshall.
He signed a pro contract at 16 with West Ham United, where he scored on his debut for the first team. Sent out on loan to Bournemouth, he scored 10 goals in his first 10 games.
"There are many things that I have achieved in my career but nothing meant more to me than being able to buy my mum a house," he says on his official website.
He is an accomplished scorer and I know that his skill and infectious personality will make him a popular star both in Toronto and around the league.- Toronto FC Tim Bezbatchenko on newly signed striker Jermain Defoe
Defoe first joined the London club in February 2004 from West Ham, making 177 appearances and scoring 64 goals before leaving to join Portsmouth in January 2008. The England international was re-signed a year later and has since made 185 appearances, scoring 78 goals.
“Jermain brings the complete package to Toronto FC,” Toronto general manager Tim Bezbatchenko said in a statement. “He is an accomplished scorer and I know that his skill and infectious personality will make him a popular star both in Toronto and around the league.
Tottenham also announced an advertising and marketing deal with Toronto's owners, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, and a friendly with the club on July 23 as part of the transfer.
It includes promotional, branding, experiential activities, advertising, broadcasting, social media and digital rights across the four-year agreement and at all MLSE properties and media sites. Tottenham and Toronto FC said MLSE will stock, promote and sell official Spurs merchandise at all its retail outlets and support the THFC Official Canadian Supporter's Club.
The Spurs exhibition game against Toronto will come between matches against the Seattle Sounders on July 19 and Chicago Fire on July 26.
With files from The Canadian Press