While Toronto FC chief Tim Leiweke insists that Jermain Defoe is committed to the club for the short-term, the two sides are set for talks come the end of the MLS season to discuss where the striker’s ultimate future lies.
Arriving from Tottenham Hotspur seven months ago to much fanfare and high expectations, the £6 million signing has been widely reported to be angling for a Premier League return since head coach Ryan Nelsen’s sacking in late-August, following a poor run of results.
That led to a hectic transfer deadline saga, which saw the England international jet back across the Atlantic admit reports of interest from the likes of Queens Park Rangers, Leicester, Newcastle and even Arsenal, with the former club thought to be the front-runner for his signature.
General manager Tim Bezbatchenko revealed at the time that the club had turned down a record bid for their star man but, with QPR and Newcastle understood to be keen on renewing interest come the winter transfer window, Defoe’s future in MLS remains in doubt.
With the club bidding to make their first post-season appearance since entering the league in 2007, Leiweke maintains that Defoe is on board for at least the remaining three regular-season matches, but the man who helped bring David Beckham to MLS concedes that discussions will have to be held at the conclusion of the campaign in December.
‘There is no deal, no conversation, not even a thought right now,’ he said at the Leaders in Sport conference in London. ‘Jermain understands the uniqueness of Major League Soccer, we have playoffs. That’s the defining moment on the success of our clubs. Making the playoffs would be a huge step forward [for Toronto].
‘Jermain now gets that and is totally focused on that. As to what happens during the next transfer window, we’ve all agreed we’ll put it on hold and talk about that in December. I compliment Jermain for being committed to trying to get us to the playoffs and making that the only concern that we have right now.’
Aged 32, Defoe has scored 11 goals in 17 MLS games for TFC, but has spent large chunks of the campaign out injured, returning to action last weekend after missing six matches with a groin strain.
Fellow strikers Gilberto and Luke Moore have performed well in his absence, but the club will need the 55-times capped front man firing on all cylinders over the coming weeks in order claim the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.