Star forward Sebastian Giovinco still a member of TFC

John Molinaro joins Prime Time Sports to discuss Sebastian Giovinco's frustration with the lack of a long-term contract and what it could mean for TFC if they come to a transfer agreement sending him to join Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal.

The future of Toronto FC star forward Sebastian Giovinco has become a hot topic as of late.

Last week, Al Jazirah, a daily newspaper in Saudi Arabia, reported Giovinco was close to completing a move to Saudi Professional League club Al-Hilal FC. On Monday, The Athletic reported Giovinco left the team’s training camp in Irvine, Calif., to return to Toronto in anticipation of a pending transfer.

However, a club official told Sportsnet that the Italian was still in California and that he left camp in order to consult with a doctor in Los Angeles about a problem with his leg at the request of his agent. The same official said Giovinco will rejoin the team on Monday afternoon.

Sportsnet has learned that TFC was recently contacted by another team who inquired about Giovinco, but that the MLS club turned down that transfer offer.

Giovinco is in the final year of his contract with TFC. The Italian has publically said on a number of occasions he wants to remain in Toronto, but he also recently indicated that there was “serious talk” about another club being interested in him.

“I try to honour my contract. We’ll see what happens. I want to stay here, but I hear something already this season [that] somebody wants to offer me to another team. [It] can be my last [year], or not. We’ll see,” Giovinco told reporters in Toronto during the team’s second day of training camp.

Giovinco has angled for a new, extended contract for some time, so it’ll be interesting to see how this plays out, especially with Ali Curtis at the helm as general manager of the club. Previous GM Tim Bezbatchenko, who was instrumental in bringing Giovinco to Toronto, left TFC earlier this month to become president of the Columbus Crew. Curtis is still new on the job, and surveying the lay of the land. Negotiating new contracts might not be a priority for him.

If TFC does, in fact, sell off Giovinco – and at the moment, that’s a very big if – the Reds will have a Herculean task on their hands to replace him.

Since arriving in Toronto via a transfer from Serie A side Juventus, Giovinco has established himself as one of the best players and most dangerous scorers in MLS.

Giovinco has 68 goals and 52 assists in 114 MLS regular-season games (111 as a starter) during his four years with Toronto. He’s also chipped in with five playoff goals in 11 appearances, and played a key role in the Reds’ historic 2017 campaign when they won the Supporters’ Shield, Canadian Championship and MLS Cup.

His best season was in 2015, when he scored 22 goals and tallied 16 assists, and he was named league MVP as he helped TFC secure its first ever playoff berth. The following year the Reds lost to the Seattle Sounders in the MLS Cup final.

By his high standards, Giovinco had a down year in 2018, but he still managed to score 13 goals and added 15 assists in 28 regular-season games. Toronto failed to make the playoffs, but it did reach the finals of the Concacaf Champions League, with Giovinco scoring a competition-high four goals to earn a place on the tournament’s all-star team.

It’s been a busy off-season thus far for TFC. Earlier this month, Spanish playmaker Victor Vazquez was sold to Qatari club Al-Arabi, Dutch international Gregory van der Wiel was sent home from training camp after an altercation with coach Greg Vanney (and it’s expected that he’ll never play again for the Reds) and defender Nick Hagglund was traded to FC Cincinnati.

Could Giovinco be next? Could the club sell or trade him off? Will he remain with Toronto FC for this season and beyond? Will speculation about his future speed up the negotiation process?

Time will tell.


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