Toronto FC sold 2015 MLS MVP Sebastian Giovinco to Saudi Arabian club Al-Hilal FC on Wednesday.
Giovinco, 32, earned an MLS-high $7.115 million in 2018 and was at a contract impasse with Toronto FC with the FIFA transfer window deadline approaching. The club said earlier this week that it had turned down an offer from a Saudi Arabian club.
“I’d like to thank the fans and my teammates for four special years playing for Toronto FC,” Giovinco said in a statement. “I’d also like to thank the club for helping me as I transition into the next phase of my career.”
Giovinco scored 68 goals and recorded 52 assists in 114 regular-season games over four years with Toronto FC. He scored 22 goals with 16 assists in his first season en route to earning MVP honors.
Giovinco helped Toronto FC win the MLS Cup in 2017. He had 13 goals and 15 assists in 28 games last year, but left preseason training in California on Monday. A club spokesman said the Italian international was dealing with “leg tension,” but there were reports that a transfer was in the works.
“I try to honor my contract,” he told the media at training camp in Toronto, per The Sun. “We’ll see what happens. I want to stay here but I hear something already this season (that) somebody wants to offer me to another team.”
Giovinco, who previously played for Italian powerhouse Juventus, was entering the final year of his deal and said he was offered terms on a new contract that he “deemed unacceptable.”
“It’s without hesitation that I can say that I wanted it to end differently,” Giovinco wrote on Instagram on Wednesday night. “As I have always maintained, I was hoping to renew my contract and finish my playing career in a city that feels like home. It is here where my daughter was born and where my son took his first steps on a football pitch. A place my family loves to live and wanted to call home for good. Unfortunately, this desire of ours has clashed with a change in direction with current TFC management. For the 2 years I have been seeking to extend my contract however management was reluctant. Recently, after refusing to exercise the club option for 2020, I was offered terms that I deemed unacceptable. They may say I left for a more lucrative deal, but this is not the case. Their offer and lack of transparency is a clear message. It seems management prefers to focus on things other than the pure desire to win.
“After having grown the brand and elevating the overall reputation of TFC both at home and abroad, it seems I no longer serve a purpose. I would have accepted less to stay in Toronto. Therefore, I reluctantly announce that my tenure as a TFC player has come to an end. I will now focus my attention and efforts towards another challenge. With me I bring beautiful memories. Toronto - the 6ix - you are and will always remain in my heart. Thank you for everything you have taught me about myself and about life. I love you Toronto! Seba”
Toronto FC’s other star forward, Jozy Altidore, has one season left on his current contract, as does captain Michael Bradley.
The club also lost Spanish international Victor Vazquez to Qatar’s Al-Arabi SC, while Nick Hagglung was traded to expansion Cincinnati FC and Dutch international Gregory van der Wiel was sent home following an argument with coach Greg Vanney.
“We believe in consistency, so this transfer hits hard in a lot of places,” new general manager Ali Curtis said in a release. “I have so much respect for Sebastian as a player and what he has meant to the organization. His departure presents both challenges and opportunities. Obviously, replacing a player like Sebastian is difficult, but we are working diligently and are confident that we will be adding a new Designated Player in the near future who will be an exciting addition to our team.”
Striker Terrence Boyd, who has been playing for SV Darmstadt 98 in the 2 Bundesliga, is reportedly set to join Toronto FC to provide more depth at forward.
Toronto FC holds the first spot in the MLS allocation order and are likely to acquire a player
—Field Level Media