Toronto FC’s commitment to “creating a culture of winning,” in the words of new GM Tim Bezbatchenko, has led to the acquisition of a player who is quite used to it.
Although goalkeeper Júlio César hasn’t seen much of the field recently at Queens Park Rangers, there’s no questioning his pedigree. The 34-year-old Brazilian was an Italian, European and Club World Cup champion at Inter Milan and has claimed two Confederations Cup titles with the Seleção. His desire to recapture his form in time for this summer’s World Cup, which Brazil is favored to win, led to the loan deal announced Friday.
Júlio César will spend 2014 in with TFC, which has orchestrated the most stunning offseason overhaul in MLS history. Michael Bradley and Jermaine Defoe already are aboard, to the tune of some $100 million. They’ll be joined by 2011 MLS MVP Dwayne De Rosario and Gilberto, a 24-year-old Brazilian striker signed two months ago as a Designated Player.
“This offseason, there’s been a great transformation at Toronto Football Club, and the transformation continues today by following through in our commitment to our fans, our staff and our organization to field a winning team – a team they can be proud of,” Bezbatchenko said at Júlio César’s unveiling.
For those wondering why Bezbatchenko and new Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment CEO Tim Leiweke kept coach Ryan Nelsen on after taking over the club, Friday was an indication. Heading into his second season on the bench, Nelsen was instrumental in bringing Júlio César to Toronto. The manager finished his playing career at QPR. He also played with Defoe at Tottenham Hotspur.
“I have a good relationship with the coach,” Júlio César said.
The goalkeeper will not be a DP. In fact, TFC still needs to offload midfielder Matías Laba in order to conform to the league limit of three. The loan deal with QPR appears to be a relatively simple one. The London club offloaded a veteran player desperate for minutes and will save a bit of money as well. QPR will continue to pay the vast majority of Júlio César’s salary. TFC likely will be stuck with a bill of around $250,000, which it will have to fit under its league-mandated salary budget.
Júlio César will compete for playing time with 2013 Toronto starter Joe Bendik, who is 24 and has played 38 professional matches. Júlio César won five Serie A championships, three Coppa Italia titles, the UEFA Champions League and Club World Cup in seven seasons at Inter, as well as four Rio de Janeiro state titles and the Copa Mercosur at Flamengo. He has been capped 77 times by Brazil.
“This is not about addressing a need, however, but rather continuing to add to our strong stable of goalkeepers,” Bezbatchenko said. “Few players can compare to what Julio has done, which is winning … Any time you have a chance to bring on someone with this kind of pedigree, you take it.”
Júlio César said that the upcoming World Cup played a role in the move, but that his focus will remain on Toronto until he has to leave for Brazil.
“When you don’t play, it’s hard. I have a World Cup to play now and I’m eight months without playing,” he said. “[But] I need to be honest. Now I’m thinking about the MLS league. So I would like to show the supporters of Toronto my job. Of course the World Cup is really important … My head now is in Toronto and the MLS league and I hope to do well here.”