Toronto FC: Why Jermain Defoe Can’t be Blamed if He Leaves


A few weeks ago, I wrote an article discussing why the Toronto FC experiment failed.

Too much faith and too much money in too few players resulting in a top-heavy lineup is the gist of it.  Since then, things have gotten, how do I put it delicately, dicey.  Premier League side Queens Park Rangers keep knocking. The loudmouthed Tim Lieweke essentially told Defoe to “get the hell out” of the club’s way, and complications with Defoe’s family and their move across the pond all are making TFC’s chances of keeping Jermain smaller by the second.

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Let’s start with Toronto’s resident loudmouth Tim Leiweke, or the best thing since sliced bread, as he refers to himself (probably).  In a Q & A at a local college in Toronto, Leiweke gave his thoughts on a possible Defoe move, saying “I personally don’t think Defoe will come back. I think if he doesn’t want to be here, you get rid of him.”

“My attitude if you want to be here and you want to buy into what we’re doing, let’s go,” he added. “Roll up your sleeves and we’ll fight together. And I will be there with you every day…If you don’t want to be here, get the hell out of our way.”


Any manager of any sport should know that the build-up-tear-down method does not work.  Ever.  It didn’t work for College Basketball player Jabari Parker at Duke, and we’re seeing its effects on Mario Balotelli at Liverpool.  Any time you praise a player for his talents and contributions only to turn and attack his “lack of commitment”  down the road, the results are never good.

Let’s not forget, Jermain is 32 years old and has been playing essentially nonstop since August of 2013.  That’s a season and a half with no breaks, playing in two physically tolling leagues.  His body was going to break down; it wasn’t a question of if but rather when.

It’s worth noting as well that Defoe was put in a bad spot from the get-go.  He was brought into a struggling club desperate for a spark plug.  And when he (and Michael Bradley as well, for that matter) began to falter, the criticism was inevitable. Never mind the fact that he had no supporting cast (even Jordan wasn’t Jordan til Pippen and Rodman came along, as the saying goes).  How dare our saviors that we hold on the highest of pedestals be HUMAN and make mistakes? I won’t allow it. This seemed to be Toronto’s response to Defoe and Bradley’s troubles.

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Toronto FC: Biggest upgrade and worst downgrade in franchise history
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  • People are so quick to forget that Thierry Henry and David Beckham didn’t exactly flourish right away when they came to MLS either. Compared to their first few games here, actually, Defoe was an automatic superstar.  But as the cliché saying goes, the bigger they are, the harder they fall.

    Unfortunately, Defoe’s midseason saw everything come together in the wrong way.   A combination of a transfer window with several EPL suitors calling for Defoe, a struggling TFC, and Jermain suffering from injury did not sit well with Toronto’s press.

    It seemed as if Toronto was offended that clubs are interested in Defoe. Of course they were. He’s Jermain Defoe, he’s a bloody big deal (see what I did there?).  There was plenty of interest in Beckham and Henry during their MLS early years as well yet LA or NY never lost their cool.  Jermain has also attracted other teams during every transfer season for the last 10 years no matter which team he played for.  If anything Toronto should have taken it as a compliment, not to mention taking Defoe at his word when he said he had no intentions on leaving over the summer.

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    On a side note, who here feels bad for Michael Bradley?

    Defoe was half the reason Bradley came back to MLS; his acquisition was the attention-getter in Toronto’s pitch to Bradley.  And now that the experiment has failed, Defoe still has teams that would pay good money to bring him back to England since his MLS performance was impressive albeit short-lived.

    Bradley’s performance has been far less optimal.  If he wants out, there are not many places he can go.  While his international stock was relatively high while at Roma, Bradley is a shell of the man who arrived at Toronto.  Toronto bringing Michael from Italy to play for Defoe only to have Defoe leave a year later is like a cruel joke. It’s like Bradley ruined Tim Lieweke’s life a long time ago and this is Tim’s elaborate plot to get him back: by ruining his value on the transfer market.

    Toronto’s mismanagement of Jermain Defoe is exactly the reason that their franchise continues to struggle despite two superstar players.   They do not know how to handle the responsibility of a big player, or how to accommodate them.  I’m all for making sure no player is bigger than the team, but telling them to get the hell out of your way?

    That’s crossing a line. So who can blame Jermain Defoe for his seemingly imminent return to England.  If you make a player feel not wanted, can you really blame him for going someplace where he is wanted?