Jermain Defoe’s Toronto FC teammates have rushed to the defence of the striker, after seeing his commitment to the club questioned following his failed summer return to the Premier League.
Arriving from Tottenham Hotspur at the start of 2014 to much fanfare, Defoe got off to a hot start in Toronto, scoring 11 goals in his first 13 games, but a nagging groin problem saw him make just five further regular-season appearances from July onwards, as the club missed out on a first-ever playoff spot in disastrous fashion.
Widely reported to be angling for a return to England since ex-head coach Ryan Nelsen’s sacking in late-August, an article in the Globe and Mail claimed the front man had sent a text to his former Spurs teammate in the aftermath, which read: ‘If you’re gone, I’m gone.’
That led to a hectic transfer deadline saga, which saw him 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 admitted at the time that the club had turned down a record bid for their £6 million man, but most now expect a winter departure to be inevitable.
However, Defoe’s TFC teammates have claimed that the saga surrounding his future hasn’t been a distraction, despite the team’s considerable dip in form, with midfielder Jonathan Osorio stating at the end-of-season media session: ‘I think that was more of a distraction for you guys [the media].’
‘You can’t blame him for getting hurt,’ right-back Mark Bloom echoed.
The versatile Bradley Orr also stood up for his fellow Englishman, arguing: ‘Jermain is a fantastic lad. … I don’t see why he won’t come back.’
Nevertheless, with Defoe himself admitting this week that he doesn’t know what the future holds for him, and talks set to be held with club management soon, odds are that the 55-times capped international has made his final bow in a TFC shirt.