Jermain Defoe and Michael Bradley have broken a Major League Soccer (MLS) record for transfer fees at nearly US$10 million each.
With Julio Cesar in goal, a rejuvenated Dwayne DeRosario and Brazilian striker Gilberto – who is yet to make an appearance – in the fold, much is expected from Toronto FC which has failed to make the play-offs in its first seven seasons. The club’s record is 51 wins, 105 losses and 66 draws.
Judging by its performance in the season-opener on the road against Seattle Sounders last Saturday, long-suffering fans could be in for quite a fulfilling season.
Defoe made a dream MLS debut, scoring twice in the first half as Toronto FC held on for a 2-1 win.
“To score two goals in your debut, it’s a dream,” Defoe told reporters after the game. “To come here and to win was massive for us. Everyone’s delighted – it was an important three points.”
Head coach Ryan Nelsen lured Defoe from English side Tottenham Hotspurs.
“That was Jermain Defoe,” Nelsen said. “Let’s just say I’m not surprised. When the ball falls in those situations, he puts them away. That’s why we brought him in. I was hoping he’d get in those scenarios and he got in them.”
Toronto FC plays its home opener against D.C. United on Saturday afternoon at BMO Field. Kick-off is 4.30 p.m.
And, Africa’s richest man will fulfill a promise to reward the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations winner Nigeria with a $1 million bonus.
Aliko Dangote is a Nigerian business magnate listed as the world’s 23rd richest individual with net worth of $25 billion.
“We have been waiting for Nigerian officials to collect the money, but nobody has written to us,” said Dangote. “We will write them asking for the account numbers of the players and we will make the transfer immediately.”
Dangote, who made the promise at a state dinner for the winning team last February, said he had been waiting to be approached about the pledge.
The delay led to a public appeal by Nigerian goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama.
‘It was just a reminder to patriots who are very busy and may not have been prompted after they made their pledges,” he said. “The players are determined to bring more honours to fatherland at the forthcoming World Cup.”
Nigerian economist and banker Tony Elumelu’s promise of $500,000 to the team remains outstanding.
Meanwhile, two-time African Player of the Year Nwankwo Kanu is recovering in the United States after undergoing corrective heart surgery.
Younger brother Ogbonna said the former Arsenal forward is doing well after the operation.
“It’s important to clarify that the decision to operate on him was reached during his annual medical check-up,” said the brother. “We give thanks to God that everything went well and he’s in perfect condition.”
The former Nigerian captain first had surgery in November 1996 to correct a faulty aortic valve. Sidelined for a year, he returned to action for Inter Milan and in February 1999 joined Arsenal.
Two weeks ago, Kanu was named among 100 Most Distinguished Nigerians by the government during a ceremony to mark the centenary of the unification of north and south Nigeria.
Kanu retired from international soccer four years ago.