FBL-WC2014-CONFED-URU-ITA

When Kevin Payne was first unveiled as the new president of MLS’ Toronto FC, I asked him if he would sort out the leaks that continued to wreak havoc in and around the club. He answered:

“I believe there should be one message coming from the club. I believe very strongly in that. That is something that we will be talking about at the team staff and the business staff level. I don’t expect leaks. I don’t expect people voicing their own opinions in some sub rosa way as a source.”

Someone watching the live feed of the press conference at that moment made a crack on Twitter to the effect that this was a sports team, not the state department. And yet not a week before, a popular American source for non-stop transfer speculation on Twitter had leaked Payne would be TFC’s next president while at least one candidate for the position was still planning to fly to Toronto to be interviewed. This person was not made aware of the decision, and potentially beneficial bridges were unnecessarily burned because MLSE employees couldn’t shut up for a few days.

The appointment of Payne was, to say the least, incompetent. But Payne would at least change all that.

Today it seems Diego Forlan may or may not be on his way yet to Toronto. The story was first reported by Steve Goff in the Washington Post, which would reasonably lead people to assume that Payne, formerly of DC United, was the source. Then on Sunday Paul Attfield, a very respectable TFC beat guy (although not one known for inveterate scooping) declared the deal “could happen as early as Monday or Tuesday, when the MLS international transfer window opens, and would make him available for selection for Saturday’s contest at Sporting Kansas City.”

Now the Star’s Cathal Kelly is rumbling on about it:

And now Kurt Larson of the Toronto Sun published an article with the title “TFC to sign Diego Forlan: Report”, which promises more details but is in fact a summary of all we know.

The Globe and Mail normally has standards for sourcing, even within its teeny-tiny sports pages, but let’s just say I know from experience that even the world’s best regarded newspapers sometimes don’t double source things in the sporting world. After all, it’s just a stupid game.

As for Kelly, he’s just repeating what he’s heard from the club. But his argument that Forlan’s quotes comprise “a non denial denial” doesn’t ring true. This is what Forlan said:

“I said I would like to play in the United States, also in the Middle East,” he told reporters on Monday, dispelling the rumors.

“But I have a contract here for another two years. I’m very happy here and I have a contract. Today you know, there are so many websites on the Internet to see if the source is right or not.

“But I would like to stay at Inter, until not only the (2014) World Cup, but until the end of the contract.”

Which sounds to me like a denial denial. Unless Forlan isn’t willing to leave.

And yet Forlan’s arrival means a lot not only for the struggling (forever struggling) Canadian team, but for MLS. Richard Farley makes a good argument:

For Toronto, Forlán could slot in behind Danny Koevermans and Robert Earnshaw as an attacking midfielder or be played in tandem in support of either forward. While his arrival may prove too late to elevate Toronto, 13 points out of a playoff spot, to postseason contention, the prospect of an elite attacker may revitalize fan spirits around BMO Field.

That may the most important part of this deal. For as promising as Toronto’s start was in Major League Soccer, the enthusiasm around the franchise has waned amid the team’s recent failings. No TFC supporter needs to be told about the franchise’s lack of postseason play, but with Leiweke and Kevin Payne willing to go out and get a player of Forlán’s caliber, there should be little debate new management intends the team to be a more entertaining if not more successful one.

Forlan is not Max Urruti. Despite being 34 years old, he’s an undeniable global star. Many Toronto FC fans excitedly declared they might consider returning to BMO Field (although that’s just anecdotal). This signing could have been among the most ambitious in the club’s history.

Some believe this back-and-forth is all just a strategy to force the player’s hand, but if so, it’s one that Toronto attempted before, and failed at. I’m more inclined to believe it reflects Ben Rycroft’s op-ed from May on Payne’s tenure as TFC president so far:

As this 2013 season quickly devolves into an extended 2014 pre-season, messaging, and as a result, trust, become tremendously important if they’re going to keep the dwindling constituents of BMO Field engaged.

Otherwise, as it is, politicians will often get four years – soccer executives should be so lucky.

If this thing fails to go through, several journalists will have been made to look like fools, the club will further shore up its reputation as a failed negotiator, MLSE will be made to look even more ridiculous in the eyes of the league, and hopeful Toronto FC fans will fail to take anything from the front office seriously ever again.

Here’s hoping it goes the other way.