While the transfer window was silent this week in Europe, recent rumors involving U.S. striker Jozy Altidore were confirmed. After seven years playing in Europe, Altidore will be returning to the U.S., signing with Toronto FC. The deal sends Toronto striker Jermain Defoe to England to play for Sunderland, where he signed a 3+ year deal.
He had already scored over 200 goals in the English Premier League (EPL) for three different teams over the course of his career. While Defoe’s return to the Black Cats had been expected since the transfer window opened, let’s take a deeper look at Altidore’s career and whether this move makes sense for the player and his new team.
Altidore’s career started with the New York-New Jersey Red Bulls, where he played from 2006-08 and scored 15 goals in 37 games. Altidore has also been a part of the U.S. Men’s National Team since 2007, scoring 25 goals in 76 appearances to date.
In 2008, Jozy caught the eye of a few European teams, and in June of that year, Villarreal paid the Red Bulls a transfer fee of $10 million for Altidore. From 2008-11, Jozy played for Villarreal, Hull City and Bursaspor. He failed to achieve success as a striker, however, scoring a combined three goals in 49 match appearances.
After being released by Villarreal in June 2011, Altidore signed with Netherland side AZ Alkmaar, where his career seemed to get a resurgence. From 2011-13, Jozy scored 38 goals in 67 appearances. His success generated interest from other European teams, and in 2013, Sunderland paid a transfer fee of $13 million for him. This seemed to provide Jozy with a second opportunity to excel in a highly competitive league. But after 18 months in which Altidore netted one goal in 34 matches, he is on his way back to the MLS via Toronto FC.
Altidore joins Toronto FC while striker Jermain Defoe returns to Sunderland. Sunderland will also send an undisclosed amount of cash to Toronto FC. Jozy signs a five-year deal with Toronto FC in the neighborhood of $30 million, a king’s ransom in the MLS for any player.
The deal was agreed upon earlier in the week, but had to navigate its way through the convoluted MLS allocation process, where five other MLS teams (Montreal, San Jose, Colorado, Chicago and Houston) all had to decline interest before the sixth team (Toronto FC) could make a move.
Altidore’s former MLS team, the Red Bulls, made a late push to acquire him, but their offer fell short of the mark. It is noteworthy that few players in the MLS earn the type of money that Altidore will be paid. He joins the ranks of Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, David Villa, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Kaka.
What Toronto FC gets
At 25 years old with no major injuries throughout his career, Altidore should have many quality years of soccer ahead of him. Looking at the team’s recent performance on the pitch, this is a team with a solid fan base that averaged over 22,000 per match yet has failed to make the MLS playoffs for the past eight seasons, a league record.
Altidore will be teamed with USMNT teammate Michael Bradley, a quality midfielder in his own right who has also played overseas. The team was only a few spots out of the playoffs last season, and sports a tenacious defense. With a quality striker added to the starting eleven, Altidore could provide Toronto with the goals needed to propel the team to the playoffs and beyond. Of course, like any other sports team, the additional jersey sales will provide added value as well.
Most importantly, TFC gets a goalscorer who can do this:
What Altidore gets
Jozy gets a much-needed fresh start to his struggling career. Playing in front of a North American fan base might just be what this striker needs to find the net again and revitalize his career. No one has questioned his work ethic on the pitch as well as his physical attributes, and with a new venue in more familiar surroundings, Altidore will be given every opportunity to excel as a member of Toronto FC, paired up with Michael Bradley. Toronto will be expecting a lot out of Jozy, but having played in Europe and the USMNT, he is a veteran accustomed to such pressures and rigors on and off the pitch.
And let’s not forget something else that Altidore gets, which is $30 million dollars over five years, up from his Sunderland salary of $3.2 million/year. Players play for team and glory, but having a contract worth this much can provide added incentive as well.
The wild cards regarding Altidore’s impending return to the U.S.
Even as a striker, it would seem that Jozy has several more years of national team play left in him. However, with manager Jurgen Klinsmann’s recent comments about MLS players and his roster choices, any MLS player will likely wonder what his future holds regarding international play. Altidore is part of the USMNT roster for a friendly later this month in Chile. But after a hamstring injury had him sit out the World Cup last year, one has to wonder what the plans will be for his role on the USMNT. As of today, most analysts don’t see a possible replacement for Altidore, but his return to the league might endanger his roster spot given Klinsmann’s perception of MLS.
Something else to consider is a return to Europe. While a veteran, Altidore is still young, and teams across the globe are always on the lookout for a quality striker who can make a difference in their league rankings. Most of the European strikers do not rise through the youth academies, but rather are purchased from various leagues around the world.
Second opportunities are common in sports, and Jozy is no exception. Should he catch fire in Toronto and provide quality play with the USMNT, expect one or more European teams to come calling for the American striker. While he might say otherwise, like most players, the temptation to compete at a higher level can prove overwhelming. Altidore’s bags will be packed just in case he ever receives the call.