It’s very likely Jermain Defoe will not be a Toronto FC player or in Major League Soccer next season, but he wants to make sure a few things are put straight.
In August, following the firing of head coach Ryan Nelsen who was instrumental in bringing Defoe to the club, the England international striker was linked with several teams in the Premier League ahead of the transfer deadline. No deal happened, and Defoe missed 10 of Toronto’s final 15 matches through injury.
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Outgoing President and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) Tim Leiweke was outspoken after no deal was done, and had the following to say regarding Defoe being in MLS for the 2015 season and beyond: “I personally don’t think Defoe will come back. If he doesn’t want to be here, you get rid of him. If you don’t want to be here, get the hell out of our way.”
Speaking to the Guardian newspaper in England in a wide-ranging interview, Defoe spoke about his experience in North America’s top-flight so far, his plans to recover from a long-standing groin injury in the offseason, not going to the World Cup and watch more.
Below is a snippet from the interview, as many believe Defoe will never play in MLS again.
“When I saw the comments I was hurt. It’s so far from the truth. Football and commitment? Come on, man, that’s built into me,” Defoe said. “That stems from my family, my mum, my nan, my granddad. They worked hard their whole lives. I’ve always been that way. I’ve always dedicated myself to football and worked hard for the team and scored goals.
“It was hurtful. In England, at all the clubs I’ve played for, no one ever said that. I was at Tottenham 10 years and no manager or chairman ever said that. I’ve heard managers say I’m the most committed player they’ve ever had. I can say this because it’s the truth. I don’t drink. I take care of my body. That’s why, at 32, I’m sharper than ever. My record here, even restricted by injury, is good. I always want to play well and score goals. I had that same attitude on the playground. I always want that buzz of winning and scoring. Nothing gets close to it.”
“Sometimes you reflect on life,” Defoe said. “I’ve come from growing up in east London, and so when people say negative things I think: ‘If only you knew where I came from you’d respect me more.’ We’re just a normal working-class family with parents who had to work three jobs to provide things like boots. That’s why I never go through the motions.”
Defoe has become a scapegoat for the troubles up in Toronto which saw the Reds go from favorites for the Eastern Conference title following the razzmatazz of Defoe and Michael Bradley’s arrival, to missing the playoffs for the eighth-straight season.
No matter where you think Defoe will end up next season — back in the Premier League when the January window opens in either a loan deal or permanent transfer is the smart bet — he did score 11 goals in 19 MLS appearances and was their top scorer.
Will TFC’s fans ever see Defoe at BMO Field again?