Jermain Defoe is expected to arrive in Canada this weekend to complete his transfer to Toronto FC from Tottenham Hotspur. The England international will put the finishing touches to his move to North America for an MLS record transfer fee, in excess of $10 million, and earn himself a bumper pay packet thought to be around $150,000 a week.
Defoe's signing will end a long courtship between the club and player which included London meetings with team management back in October, his mother being hosted by the club for a week in Toronto last fall, and phone calls from rapper Drake to help persuade Defoe to make the move.
News of Toronto FC's interest in the striker was first revealed on MLS on TSN in October, and at the time, my colleague Kristian Jack asked TFC Head Coach Ryan Nelsen about his interest in signing his former Spurs teammate:
"Jermain Defoe in this league? Look what Di Vaio has done! My goodness - incredible player," Nelsen raved. "One of the most natural goal scorers I have ever come across. Always out training, always trying to score, a great guy. To get a guy like Defoe for MLS, I cannot think of many that are more suited. It would be incredible," he said.
While Defoe has been out of favour at Tottenham this season and has seen only limited playing time, he still has ambitions of making England's squad for this year's World Cup in Brazil. He has scored 19 goals in 55 appearances for his country and was involved throughout the recent World Cup Qualifying campaign.
Once the deal is completed, it is likely he will head back to England on loan for a couple of months. He could be loaned back to Spurs, but there is also a possibility he will return to his former club West Ham United. When he does pull on the Red jersey, he will join a squad that has been undergoing a significant and impressive remake under new General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko.
Defoe's signing is not only a positive step because of the impact he can have on the pitch. It is a signal that finally the management of the team can deliver on promises. Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment President Tim Leiweke has been extremely vocal about his desire to sign a big name player for this club. Where others have failed in the past, Leiweke will have delivered.
The man who signed David Beckham for LA Galaxy set his sights on making a splash at Toronto FC within days of joining the organization. "You cannot make a mistake on a DP," Leiweke said last summer. "You have to be right. You've got to find a guy with character, a player that's able to understand the uniqueness of Major League Soccer and the style of play that we have here."
Defoe will be the second Designated Player signing of the winter for Toronto, following on from 24-year-old Brazilian forward Gilberto. Those two players will join experienced MLS additions Dwayne De Rosario, Justin Morrow and Jackson in giving Toronto a new core of key players for 2014.
Defoe's arrival is a potential game-changer for this franchise. Through seven years of turmoil Toronto FC has gradually lost the fervent support it had when the club launched, while also seeing its credibility disappear within Major League Soccer after a series of failures. Now, for the first time, there is a realistic opportunity to turn things around.
Toronto FC will open the club's eighth MLS season on the road in Seattle on Saturday, March 15.