Toronto FC signs Spanish midfielder Victor Vazquez


Victor Vazquez won Footballer of the Year honours in Belgium with Club Brugge in 2014-15. (Geert Vanden Wijngaert/AP)

Toronto FC’s hunt for an attacking midfielder is over.

The Major League Soccer club announced on Monday the signing of Victor Vazquez, a 30-year-old Spaniard and former product of Barcelona’s famous La Masia youth academy.

TFC completed the move for Vazquez using Targeted Allocation Money, a special reserve of cash given to teams by MLS to spend on players who will make more than the league maximum of $480,625, but less than $1 million. Vazquez is currently with Toronto in Florida, where it is holding the final leg of its pre-season camp, and he is expected to be officially added to the roster upon receipt of his International Transfer Certificate and his Canadian work permit. He won’t count as a designated player.

“We are excited to bring Victor Vázquez to Toronto FC and provide our team with another experienced midfielder,” TFC general manager Tim Bezbatchenko said in a new release.

“Victor developed in the Barcelona youth system which is recognized worldwide. He is a creative player with experience playing in an attacking midfield role but also centrally which gives us flexibility in our system. He will be a welcomed addition to our club.”

Vazquez spent last year with Mexican club Cruz Azul. Earlier in his career he played several years for Club Brugge, where he was named the Belgian league’s player of the season in 2014-15.

Before moving to Belgium, Vázquez mostly turned out for Barcelona’s youth and reserve teams, but he did appear in few matches for the senior side, including against FC Shakhtar Donetsk in the group stage of the 2008-09 UEFA Champions League.

It was in the Belgian league where Vázquez flourished, scoring 25 goals and tallying 50 assists in all competitions during his five seasons with Brugge. A native of Barcelona, Vázquez also helped Brugge reach the quarterfinals of the UEFA Europa League in 2014-15 and win a Belgian Cup that same campaign.

TFC didn’t have any major roster holes at the start of training camp last month, as the starting 11 from last December’s MLS Cup final remained intact. But Bezbatchenko did publically identify the need for a playmaking midfielder—someone who can give the team a creative spark in central midfield and link up effectively with forwards Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore, and be another valuable source of goals.

Vázquez seems to fit that bill, and he gives the Reds another dangerous attacking option in a deep midfield that already boasts Michael Bradley, Jonathan Osorio, Armando Cooper, Benoit Cheyrou and Marky Delgado. The Spanish midfielder failed to make any kind of impression in Mexico last year with Cruz Azul, so TFC will be hoping he can produce the form he consistently showed while at Brugge.

His arrival probably spells bad news for Jay Chapman. The young Canadian showed genuine promise last season before picking up an injury that ruled him out for several months. There was belief among some that Chapman might be considered for a starting role this season. With the experienced Vazquez now on the team, it’s likely Chapman will be used mostly as a substitute.

TFC opens the 2017 MLS regular season on March 4, away to Real Salt Lake.

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