Toronto FC has confirmed the sale of Spanish playmaker Alejandro Pozuelo to Inter Miami CF.
Toronto gets US$150,000 in general allocation money ($75,000 in 2022 in $75,000 in '23), with more to come if certain performance-based metrics are met. TFC will also retain a sell-on percentage in the event of Pozuelo being sold to a club outside MLS.
It's a modest return on a former league MVP.
But more importantly, Pozuelo's departure opens a designated player spot for Toronto with Italian international Federico Bernardeschi believed to be in the club's sights. Bernardeschi is out of contract after five seasons with Juventus.
Italian international Lorenzo Insigne, the former Napoli captain who is yet to make his Toronto debut, and Mexican defender Carlos Salcedo are Toronto's other two designated payers.
The 30-year-old Pozuelo, who is in the last year of his MLS contract, just marked his 100th appearance with Toronto in all competitions. He became the 14th TFC player to reach that milestone.
“Alejandro has been a true professional since arriving here in 2019," Toronto president Bill Manning said in a statement. "He was instrumental in helping us win the 2019 Eastern Conference title, was the league MVP in 2020 and provided our fans with so many memorable goals and assists.
“He is a good person, and we wish him nothing but the best.”
Some 20 members of the 2021 TFC first team have now departed as new coach Bob Bradley continues to overhaul a club that finished second-from-last in the league with a 6-18-10 record last season.
At US$4.69 million, Pozuelo was the fourth-highest-paid player in MLS this season, according to figures released in April by the MLS Players Association.
While blessed with tremendous offensive creative skills, Pozuelo seemed to have trouble fitting into Bradley's scheme of things -- which in itself has seemed fluid as the coach tested out the talent at his disposal. Bradley wanted a more all-round game from the Spaniard but had success when he gave him more freedom to roam in recent games.
Pozuelo scored four goals in his last five games in all competitions for Toronto, popping up all over the field.
At his best, Pozuelo is able to unlock defences with pinpoint passes and has an eye for the audacious when it comes to shots on goal. But injuries and some personal issues off the field in 2021 — with his family back in Spain — blunted his talents.
Still Miami is just happy to get a player of Pozuelo's talents.
“We believe Alejandro will fit right in with our group. He’s a player of tremendous quality that we feel can be a real game changer for us,” Miami coach Phil Neville said in a statement. “We can’t wait to integrate him into the squad and are looking forward to seeing him on the pitch in Inter Miami colours.”
In 3 1/2 seasons with Toronto, Pozuelo registered 30 goals and 34 assists across all competitions. He ranks fifth among TFC’s all-time goal-scorers behind Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore, Jonathan Osorio, and Dwayne De Rosario.
He and Giovinco are the only Toronto players to earn MLS MVP honours. In a pandemic-shortened 2020 season, Pozuelo's nine goals and 10 assists led the league in combined goals and assists and netted him the award. Pozuelo was also named to the MLS Best XI in 2019 and 2020, becoming the third player in TFC history to be named to the Best XI on multiple occasions.
"He has proven himself to be one of the brightest talents in the league and we are confident that will continue here in South Florida,” Chris Henderson, Miami's chief soccer officer and sporting director, said in a statement. “We were looking to add a decisive, creative attacking player and we feel he fits the profile.”
Pozuelo wasted little time making an impression with Toronto, delivering two eye-popping goals and a gorgeous assist in a 4-0 win over New York City FC in March 2019.
"The guy's magic," Osorio said that night.
Osorio was seen giving Pozuelo a farewell hug on Wednesday morning before the Spaniard, two of his sons and his father drove away from the Toronto training ground in a Mercedes.
Toronto (5-10-3) hosts the San Jose Earthquakes (4-7-6) on Saturday.
Prior to joining Toronto, Pozuelo played for KRC Genk in Belgium (2015-2019), Rayo Vallecano in Spain (2014-2015), Swansea City in the English Premier League (2013-2014), Real Betis in Spain (2011-2013) and Real Betis B in Spain’s second tier (2010-2012).