New Toronto FC signing Jermain Defoe was unveiled amongst much fanfare on Monday, as Major League Soccer’s newest star has landed in Ontario.
But will Defoe’s multi-year and multi-million dollar prevent him playing for the English national team?
That’s the question many have been asking on both sides of the pond, as England really don’t have anyone else in their squad that possesses the sublime finishing skills that Defoe has. Inevitably the question that is often asked to European players moving to MLS cropped up in Defoe’s first press conference as a Toronto player, as he was asked whether his move to the North American top-flight spelled the end of his England career.
“The most important thing for me is just playing football, scoring and doing well for the team,” Defoe said. “Hopefully, then I can be on a plane [to Brazil].”
But we all know it’s not that simple.
Eurosnobs out there, and there are plenty of you, would argue that Defoe is making a bad decision by leaving behind one of English soccer’s top six teams to join Toronto, a side that’s never made the MLS postseason. However the finances obviously come in to it here, as the England international is 31 and perhaps wanted one big pay day to finish his career. He’s got that. But will he get on the plan to Brazil and persuade Roy Hodgson to take him?
“I have to be honest, I did think about the chances of going to the World Cup,” Defoe said. “It’s always important to play well for your club, and having played in a World Cup before, it’s just the greatest thing in the world. It’s a dream come true. And yes, it did cross my mind, but at the same time I believe the MLS is going to be fantastic for me, and it’s important to be playing.”
That’s the puzzler, because would Hodgson have picked Defoe had he stayed at Spurs and was on the bench like he had been for most of this season? Defoe has started just three PL games and made 10 appearances off the bench, so he wasn’t playing regularly but at Toronto he will be a regular starter and would be much sharper and fitter, in theory, to be a threat for England in Brazil.
Defoe doesn’t have to prove himself to anyone, he has scored 19 goals in 55 games for England and with Daniel Sturridge, Danny Welbeck, Rickie Lambert and Andy Carroll as England’s other options up top, apart from superstar Wayne Rooney who is a shoe-in to start, surely Defoe is in with a shout at playing for the Three Lions this summer?
“At the age of 31, I would like to think that the England manager [Roy Hodgson] and everyone in England knows what I can do, what I bring to the team. If selected I’ll be ready.”
MLS won’t suddenly turn Defoe into a bad player. The Republic of Ireland have persisted with Robbie Keane after his move to the LA Galaxy and he’s been great for club and country. So why can’t England use Defoe if he’s playing for Toronto?