With Jermain Defoe looking likely to return to England this winter after just one season with Toronto FC, the MLS club are already sizing up potential big-name replacements.
A reunion with Harry Redknapp at Queens Park Rangers thought to be on the agenda, TFC president and CEO Tim Leiweke openly admitted this week that the team are in the dark over the unsettled striker’s future plans, but revealed that preparations have been made in the event of his departure.
“Jermain needs to decide if he wants to be here. If he does, then I think he's one of the great strikers in MLS,” he told the Canadian press.
“If he does not, then that situation is ours to ultimately decide — not his — because we own his contract. We're not going to give him away. And so we're in a good spot.
“The one thing I can promise our fans — one way or another, this will end well for TFC. I guarantee it.
“We know where we are going. If we have a DP [Designated Player] slot open, we already know who we're going after," he added. "And I am 100 per cent convinced we're going to be a better team on the pitch next year — without a lot of changes.”
According to local writer Duane Rollins, however, TFC have not one but two potential replacements lined up for Defoe, with “multiple sources” confirming that the front office intends to target Steven Gerrard and Wesley Sneijder as Designated Player signings.
Although no approach has been made at this stage, Gerrard of course made headlines at the end of last month after suggesting that he could be forced to leave Liverpool this summer if a deal can’t be agreed to renew is expiring contract.
“I won’t be retiring this summer. I will play beyond this season,” he said in an interview with the Telegraph. “We will have to wait and see if that’s at Liverpool or somewhere else. That’s Liverpool’s decision.”
Those comments have already led to significant speculation surrounding the 34-year-old’s future at Anfield, with Manchester City named as potential suitors should talks fail to get off the ground.
Manager Brendan Rodgers was moved to declare last week that he is keen to reward his captain with a new deal but, if the two sides don’t speak over the next two months, then Gerrard would be free to begin talks about moving elsewhere on a bosman from the start of 2015.
Following the example set by David Beckham, who accepted a deal to join the LA Galaxy in January 2007 after entering the final six months of his Real Madrid contract, Gerrard could thus sign a pre-agreement with TFC ahead of a summer move to MLS, where he would join the likes of Frank Lampard, David Villa, Kaka, Clint Dempsey, Robbie Keane, Tim Cahill, Obafemi Matins and possibly Thierry Henry (if the Frenchman opts to stay with the New York Red Bulls) as one of the league’s biggest stars.
While his wage demands are sure to be hefty, TFC are a club not short on resources, paying both Defoe and fellow DP Michael Bradley annual salaries of more than $6 million in 2014, with Leiweke having not only finalised those deal but also helped seal Beckham’s LA move while working in the same role with the Galaxy.
The potential for a central-midfield partnership of Gerrard and US international Bradley is certainly a tantalising prospect for fans of the Canadian club and, while it perhaps seems a far-fetched proposition at this point, it is undoubtedly a more feasible one then some would believe.
There is sure to be European-based interest in the ex-England skipper if his decorated Liverpool career does indeed come to an end, but one shouldn’t underestimate the pulling power MLS and TFC have in a potential fight for his signature either.