August 3, 2012
TFC set to sign experienced defender
By KURTIS LARSON, QMI Agency
TORONTO - It appears head coach Paul Mariner has found his “bossman.”
According to multiple layers of Toronto FC’s front office, the club is days away from officially announcing a defensive signing following a confusing fiasco that saw a deal to bring Swedish International Olof Mellberg to BMO Field called off.
After talks with Mellberg broke down last month due to Major League Soccer’s salary structure, the Toronto Sun has learned the Reds will add a player with international experience and someone the club believes “will be able to be with (TFC) for far longer because of his age.”
A day after announcing his side would add a player within 48 hours, Mariner told the Sun late Thursday that a signing was imminent.
“Just waiting for the release to go out,” Mariner said. “I think people will be very, very impressed with the signing.”
Although the name of the player wasn’t disclosed, multiple British outlets have reported that Toronto has reached out to number of European defenders, including Irish international Darren O’Dea, 25.
While the club has been tight-lipped in terms of releasing the names of its summer targets, a description provided by team executive Earl Cochrane will continue to build expectations.
“We locked up a player we like equally (to Mellberg), a guy with international experience, a leader, a competitor,” he said.
The only thing that remains clear is that the player wasn’t Toronto’s original target.
Talks between the former Aston Villa centre back and Toronto FC broke down a week before TFC striker Danny Koevermans suffered a season-ending knee injury against the New England Revolution.
As Mellberg’s agent Anders Wallsten put it, the experienced Scandinavian was intent on joining the Reds before a potential deal was abandoned.
“(There was) great interest from (Olof),” Wallsten told the Sun in an exclusive interview this week. “All I will say is that it wasn’t because of the player that a deal didn’t go through. You need to talk to the league and the club.”
During the league's all-star break, MLS commissioner Don Garber addressed rumours that the league blocked a potential deal for Mellberg — something Garber denied on national television.
“Lets put Mellberg aside,” he told ESPN soccer commentator Alexi Lalas during the all-star halftime show. “The league hasn't nixed that. (It) economically didn’t make sense for them. And at the end of the day it was a decision that they felt was in their best interest.”
And in the best interest of the league’s salary cap, a complicated system that played a role in breaking down negotiations between two sides that had hoped a summer deal for Mellberg, a player that featured for Sweden during this summer’s Euro Cup, would come to fruition.
“Olof wanted to come here and we wanted him here but the league didn’t agree with the terms that we had discussed,” Cochrane said. “In the end, his contract requirements didn’t work for the MLS salary structure and therefore us. We accepted that and moved on.”