The first six months of Sebastian Giovinco’s Major League Soccer adventure have proven fruitful not only for the player (a reported annual salary of $7 million), but also for the Italian playmaker’s new club, Toronto FC (11 goals, eight assists in 17 games played).
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When the 28-year-old signed with TFC in January, word of Giovinco’s North American arrival was met with skepticism — on both sides of the deal.
Why would a player still in the prime of his career leave one of Europe’s biggest clubs — which would reach the UEFA Champions League final that same season — or bypass any number of potential suitors once a free agent this summer, to come to MLS?
Why would TFC splash that kind of cash — unprecedented figures in MLS at the time — for a player we could all see was good, but had never particularly lit the European landscape on fire?
This wasn’t Thierry Henry — Arsenal’s all-time leading goalscorer, a World Cup and Champions League winner, and widely regarded as one of the best players of his generation — coming to MLS at the still-tender age of 33. $4 million per year was a no-brainer for a player with that kind of resumé and name recognition.
Which brings me to today’s question: What does it say about MLS that a seemingly run-of-the-mill European player has come to the league and set the world on fire with such immediate effect?
In a league where teams pay their star attackers upwards of $5 million per year, and at the same time the league pays the majority of its starting defenders less than $150,000 — well under that number in many cases — this kind of domination should happen all the time, but it doesn’t. The pressure heaped upon players earning that kind of money often proves a burden too heavy as subpar results ensue.
Unlike some of his big-money predecessors, Giovinco, who was selected as PST’s MLS Player of the Week following his three-goal and one-assist performance last Sunday, has proven not only the talent to dominate MLS, but a desire to do so as well. While he’ll never score and create enough goals to justify his $7 million price tag in the current financial setup of MLS — who could? — Giovinco already ranks as TFC’s seventh-highest goalscorer in club history (all competitions). With another 10 goals, he’ll find himself second on that list.
In the end, I find myself thinking, “With the top end of MLS rosters so disgustingly flush with cash and the middle and bottom thirds making a pittance of the men they’re tasked with defending, what Giovinco has done and will likely continue to do shouldn’t be at all surprising.”
It’s great from an entertainment perspective — we all loved New York City FC 4-4 TFC, right? — but if the goal is to one day win the CONCACAF Champions League or truly attain status as “one of the world’s top leagues” anytime in the next decade, that inequality must be balanced and righted.