Sebastian Giovinco Blasts Toronto FC As He’s Sold To Saudi Arabian Club

The Italian said he wanted to stay in Toronto for the rest of his career.

Over the last four MLS seasons, few players terrified defenses like Sebastian Giovinco. His speed on the ball, clinical finishing and deadly free kicks made him one of the best strikers from the day he joined the league in 2015. 

Giovinco set MLS on fire in his first season with Toronto FC. He led the league in both goals (22) and assists (16) to win one of the easiest MVP votes of all time. Alongside Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore, the four-time All-Star helped the Reds lift their first MLS Cup in 2017 and brought them to within a penalty kick shootout of winning the Concacaf Champions League in 2018.

But now he’s being shipped off to Saudi Arabia — and he ain’t happy about it.

Toronto FC announced it had sold Giovinco to Al-Hilal of the Saudi Professional League late Wednesday night. The MLS club is reported to be receiving $2-3 million for the transfer fee. 

Toronto’s news release included a quote from Giovinco that was about as neutered as it gets:

“I’d like to thank the fans and my teammates for four special years playing for Toronto FC,” Giovinco said. “I’d also like to thank the club for helping me as I transition into the next phase of my career.”

But the Italian striker struck a different tone on Instagram.

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Toronto has been home to me and my family for almost 5 years. I arrived here from Italy in January 2015 and immediately felt something special. From day one, I worked hard to repay the opportunity that Toronto had given me. From that first year, I realized that we could do great things here. Through hard work, passion and determination my teammates and I transformed TFC and made it one of the best clubs in MLS and in North America. We didn’t do this alone. Without our great fans this would not have been possible. I can confidently say that I significantly contributed in making unprecedented history at TFC. We wrote a new chapter in the club’s history, together. All for One. This journey has been a wonderful experience for my family and me. It’s without hesitation that I can say that I wanted it to end differently. 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

A post shared by Sebastian Giovinco (@sebagiovincoofficial) on

“It’s without hesitation that I can say that I wanted it to end differently,” Giovinco wrote in the lengthy post. “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.”

Here we have one of the best players in Major League Soccer over the last four years — some might argue the best, though David Villa has a claim — wanting to stay in the league and willing to make a deal, and Toronto decides he’s asking for too much and ships him off to the boonies of world football. 

This isn’t good for MLS.

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Toronto is well within its rights to decide a player is asking for too much money — Seba may well have been asking for too much. Giovinco brought in $7.1 million last year, making him the highest-paid player in the league by more than half a million dollars (Bradley was second at $6.5 million). But you’d like to think a deal could’ve been worked out to keep a player of this quality in the league instead of losing him to Saudi Arabia. 

While Giovinco’s numbers tailed off slightly each season (he scored 23 his first year and 18 this past season), he is still a difference maker and one of the best players in the league, even at 32. No one currently in the league can strike a free kick like the former Juventus forward.

But instead of Toronto lining up with Bradley, Altidore and Giovinco this coming season, the Reds will replace the Italian star with Terrance Boyd, a former USMNT forward who has been toiling in the 2. Bundesliga. Boyd, who has five goals in 35 appearances in the last three seasons, is reported to be close to signing with Toronto, though no deal has been announced just yet. 

On the flip side, you also have to question Giovinco choosing to go to Saudi Arabia of all places. If he’s going to say he wanted to stay in a city his family could live in for the rest of his career, making a move to Riyadh, where women aren’t exactly treated as equals, doesn’t quite add up. 

Al-Hilal is the most successful Saudi club and features former Lyon and Galatasaray striker Bafétimbi Gomis, but this is without a doubt a step down from MLS, though perhaps not in compensation for Seba and his family. 

In reality, as with all things, all of this bickering likely comes down to just that: money. The MLS club didn’t want to pay enough to keep one of the league’s best players, so he’s gone. It’s something every league deals with, but it feels especially harsh when said player, still playing at a high level, leaves for Saudi Arabia. 

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