TFC’s Henry sold to Cypriot club, loaned back

Doneil Henry. (Nathan Denette/CP)

Media scrums at Toronto FC practises can be tedious.

Players often speak in clichés, reporters routinely ask dumb questions, and valuable information is rarely revealed.

Thursday was a notable exception.

In a bit of a shocker, coach Greg Vanney told members of the media that Canadian defender Doneil Henry was sold to a club in Cyprus earlier this season, and that team then loaned him directly back to TFC for the duration of the 2014 Major League Soccer campaign.

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General manager Tim Bezbatchenko spoke to this correspondent and a Canadian Press reporter after practice, and while he confirmed that Henry had been sold to a Cypriot club, he declined to reveal the identity of the team or the amount of the transfer fee it paid.

Bezbatchenko said the deal was signed with the Cypriot outfit at the beginning of the season after Henry told management that he wanted to pursue a career in Europe.

“We sat down with Doneil and we talked about his goals, and one of them was he firmly believed he wanted to eventually [play] in Europe,” Bezbatchencko said.

Bezbatchencko went on to explain that TFC arranged a training stint with Premier League club West Ham in the off-season. A transfer from the Hammers didn’t pan out, but Toronto did receive an offer from a club in Cyprus.

“We took the offer seriously. We sat down with [Doneil] and his agent, and we decided together that this would allow him to fulfill his dream, but it was on the condition that [he’d be loaned back to us] for the remainder of the year and potentially for 2015,” Bezbatchencko explained.

As part of the deal with the Cypriot club, TFC received allocation money from MLS at the time of the sale. This deal didn’t alter Henry’s salary cap hit in any way, Bezbatchencko said.

Bezbatchenko also confirmed that TFC will sit down with Henry and talk to his new club before deciding where he’ll play next year—whether it’s in Toronto or in Cyprus. Bezbatchenko said “there’s no definitive timeline” as to when Henry’s fate will be decided, but that he hopes to determine that sooner rather than later.

Bezbatchenko didn’t rule out the possibility of Henry being loaned back to TFC for the duration of the 2015 MLS campaign. He also said there’s a chance the club from Cyprus could sell Henry off to another team in Europe, but only after first consulting with TFC. If Henry was sold, Toronto would receive compensation, but Bezbatchenko wouldn’t offer specifics.

Bezbatchenko did say he hopes to announce full details of the Henry deal and his immediate future sometime next week.

Henry, 21, has spent his entire professional career with Toronto FC. He signed with the senior team in 2010 after coming through the ranks of TFC’s youth academy.

A native of Brampton, Ont., Henry has scored two goals in 69 MLS appearances for TFC. He’s also earned 12 caps with the Canadian national team.

Henry is under contract to TFC for another season, but the MLS club would have to exercise its option on the Canadian defender. Henry was not made available to talk to the media on Thursday.

Bezbatchenko defended the decision to not make a public announcement when the sale was first completed months ago.

“In our position, the player wasn’t leaving; there was nothing changing about the player budget [and] there was even a chance he might be here next year. We thought it would be more of a distraction, more than anything,” Bezbatchenko stated.

Toronto plays its last game of the season this Saturday on the road against the New England Revolution. TFC was eliminated from playoff contention after last week’s 1-1 draw with the Montreal Impact.

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