Toronto FC striker Jozy Altidore has stressed that he wasn’t short of European suitors in January prior to his Sunderland departure, revealing to the Toronto Sun that even another Premier League side was interested in his signature.
Altidore, 25, moved back to MLS last month in a swap deal for the unsettled Jermain Defoe, having become somewhat of a figure of derision during his 18-month spell at the Stadium of Light.
The US international managed just three goals in 52 total games after arriving from AZ Alkmaar in the summer of 2013 for £7 million, but that form still didn’t stop several clubs from enquiring about his services when the time came to leave.
According to Altidore, four German clubs, two French sides, two Italian teams and a potential Premier League loan move were all on the table, but linking up with US teammate Michael Bradley in Toronto was always his first-choice.
“There were a lot of options,” he said. “People were saying I was forced to Toronto or something like that. I just thought at this point in my life it was something that I was ready to do.
“I was ready for the public opinion and backlash. The project they have here excited me the most. It was about the opportunity to turn around a club that, let’s face it, hasn’t had a lot of success since coming into the league.”
A rising star with the New York Red Bulls as a teenager, Altidore notched 16 goals in 41 regular-season games between 2006 and 2008, before sealing a league-record $10 million switch to Villarreal, and Toronto fans will be hoping for even better numbers from him this time around.
“When I was with New York Red Bulls — at 16 years old — I was already one of the best players on the team,” he added. “You look here, the level is different. The intensity of training is different. My first day of training with TFC I was surprised.
“Ask Michael [Bradley]. I keep telling him MLS is the best kept secret in the world.”
With Juventus forward Sebastian Giovinco following Altidore in becoming Toronto’s other big-name arrival of the offseason, the Canadian club look a good bet to not just make their first postseason appearance since entering the league in 2007 but to also challenge for an MLS Cup title.
The 78-times capped front man concludes that it’s that ambition which saw him opt to head back across the Atlantic, rather than attempt to revive his European career with another club on the continent.
“When I saw the plans of the club [I knew],” he said. “Everything from the DPs to how they want the team to play to even the stadium renovations. It was a message they are here for the long run. They are in it to create something special.
“There’s a plan of getting three DPs young who can be on the team for a long time. The fact TFC hasn’t had success made it a very good challenge. I’m putting myself on the line a bit, but the rewards could be much bigger than the risks.”