TFC signs French midfielder Robert

DEAN MCNULTY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:10 AM ET

A giant piece of the Toronto FC puzzle was put in place yesterday with the signing of former French international midfielder Laurent Robert from Derby County of the English Premiership to a Major League Soccer contract.

Robert and his agent have been in clandestine talks with the club all week and the 32-year-old was on the practice pitch with his new teammates Tuesday, but no one would admit a signing was imminent.

According to a TFC release, the team had to wait until it received final permission from Derby to talk about the future of the talented offensive star.

"We are thrilled to have Laurent join Toronto FC and become part of our club," director of soccer Mo Johnston said. "He's a tremendous player with a lot of talent and we expect him to come in and make an impact with our team straight away."

Pending final league approval, Johnston expects Robert to play Saturday against D.C. United in Washington.

And that may not be the end of a transfusion of talent to the local side.

"I am hoping to add two or three more by Saturday," Johnston said.

TFC coach John Carver was ecstatic at the Robert signing, having worked with the 13-year veteran during his stint with Newcastle United.

"I've spent a lot of time with him, and I know a lot about his game," Carver said. "He'll be a big asset to the team, he's got pace, his ability on free kicks is top class, and he's a great finisher."

It's the finishing part that the club needs desperately, Carver said, and he likes what he saw when Robert and another prospect, Rohan Ricketts, a 25-year-old midfielder from the English top flight, practised with the squad this week.

"I know what both of them can do," he said.

Carver said that the Robert deal should go a long way in convincing the side's rabid fans that better things are in store for the club that finished last in the MLS in 2007.

Terms of the contract were not released but Robert would not come cheap.

In 2001, he commanded an $18-million US transfer fee from Paris St. Germain to Newcastle and while that was in his prime he'll likely become the highest paid TFC player with his new contract.


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