Toronto FC signs French midfielder Benoit Cheyrou


Benoit Cheyrou, right, in action for Olympique Marseille. (Claude Paris/AP)

Toronto FC have dipped into the European market once again, as the Reds have signed veteran French midfielder Benoit Cheyrou.

Cheyrou, 33, became a free agent last October after having his contract with Olympique Marseille terminated. Polish team Legia Warsaw was pursuing Cheyrou, but sources told Sportsnet that the Frenchman was in Toronto on Wednesday for final contract talks with the MLS club. Now that the deal with Cheyrou is completed, as first reported by Sportsnet, the Frenchman will join TFC when the team moves its pre-season training camp to Orlando on Sunday.

“Benoit’s vision and his ability to distribute the ball are two very distinct qualities that have made him such a successful player throughout his career both domestically in France and in European competition,” general manager Tim Bezbatchenko said in a news release.

“He has a wealth of experience and success and is another important piece that complements the ones we currently have in place. We are very excited to bring him to Toronto FC.”

On Tuesday, Toronto traded winger Dominic Oduro to the Montreal Impact for allocation money. Oduro earned $251,666 US last season, and with his salary now off the books and extra cap space, it allowed Toronto to go after a player such as Cheyrou who would command similar money.

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A native of Suresnes, France, Cheyrou has spent his entire professional career in Ligue Un, the French first division. He cut his teeth at the youth academies of Racing Paris and Lille, before making his senior team debut with Lille in 1999.

He spent five years at Lille, and then made the move to Auxerre in 2004. He landed at Marseille in 2007 and spent six seasons with the club from the famous port city, winning one league title and two French League Cups. He didn’t play a single league game for Marseille this season before the termination of his contract.

“I’m very excited to sign for Toronto FC,” said Cheyrou in a statement. “I cannot wait to wear the jersey and join my new teammates.”

Cheyrou was named to the Ligue Un team of the year on three occasions, and has vast European experience, having played in the UEFA Cup and Europa League. He’s also made close to 40 appearances in the UEFA Champions League.

Also, Greg Vanney likely would have went up against Cheyrou when the current Toronto FC coach played for French club Bastia from 2002 to 2005.

Soccer runs in the Cheyrou family—Benoit’s older brother Bruno is a former France international who once played for Liverpool

This has been a very busy off-season for Toronto general manager Tim Bezbatchenko, who has added a number of European-based players in hopes of rejuvenating a TFC side that failed to qualify for the MLS playoffs in 2014 for an eighth straight year.

Earlier this week, the club signed France-born Polish international Damien Perquis, a central defender who recently cut ties with Spanish outfit Real Betis.

Also, Toronto signed Italian midfielder Sebastian Giovinco to a designated player contract, and swapped Jermain Defoe for American forward Jozy Altidore with English Premier League club Sunderland.

How does Cheyrou fit in at TFC? It’s an interesting question, considering the team’s depth in central midfield. If was going to be a starter, he would likely form a partnership with Michael Bradley in the centre of the park.

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