MLS and Toronto FC have made it official, 27 year old Italian international Sebastian Giovinco is leaving Juventus to come to North America and play in MLS. This is a change of pace when it comes to typical MLS signings who are coming from Europe. MLS has had a history of signing players from Europe who are either younger USMNT players who are in their 20’s and are entering their prime like Jozy Altidore and Mix Diskerud or older players born in Europe who are past their prime like Frank Lampard, David Villa and Steven Gerrard.
The last half of that sentence has given MLS the image that it is a “retirement league” for big name players who are looking for one last big paycheck before calling it a career. We see articles at least a few times a week saying that (insert big name European) may be interested in playing in the US, Qatar and/or China once his current contract ends. While that lifts MLS in terms of marketing, signing older players past their prime to outrageous contracts compared to the rest of MLS doesn’t necessarily make the League better on the field.
All of that can potentially change with this. MLS has the opportunity to change that “retirement league” perception by signing Giovinco. Let’s get the main thing out of the way. Sebastian Giovinco at 27 is nowhere near guys like Lampard, Gerrard, Villa and Kaka at 27. Giovinco has only scored once for the Italian National Team and has mostly sat on the bench for Juventus. Giovinco isn’t the best player in Europe but he’s still an impressive player who needed a fresh start. To me, signing a European player who is entering the prime of his career, who plays for their national team and who plays for one of the top European teams in the world can only be a win-win situation for MLS.
Quite honestly, there is no pressure for MLS to go wrong with the Sebastian Giovinco signing. Whether or not Giovinco struggles when he comes in July, it will only help the League. If Giovinco impresses and has a great career in MLS, it’s going to potentially entice more players who are in a similar situation as he is and would want to make the move to MLS. Giovinco is a great start but who knows who MLS can get as a result.
Now look at this from the other perspective. If Giovinco struggles, that helps MLS as well. If an international player who is in his prime like Giovinco cannot compete, it can show that the MLS talent pool isn’t as bad as some people make it out to be. It’s no secret that most MLS players aren’t as technically and tactically skilled as the top European players but you can argue that MLS players are just as or are more fit and are more physical than those in Europe. The MLS talent pool is definitely not as good as say La Liga or the EPL, but the gap between MLS and those leagues are closer than it has ever been. It also may cause other big name European players to think twice about MLS and maybe not have the mindset that they’re just going to automatically be unstoppable in MLS just because they were great in Europe. I’m looking at you Jermain Defoe.
Sebastian Giovinco will likely arrive in July so everyone in MLS will have six months to endlessly speculate how Giovinco will impact Toronto and MLS. Out of all the signings that has recently happened in MLS (Mix, Jozy, Villa, Kaka, Gerrard, Lampard), Giovinco is the most important because this can bring in a new era for MLS. It can be argued that Giovinco’s signing is the most important MLS signing since David Beckham. While Beckham’s signing opened the door for other top European players, Giovinco’s signing can open the door for bringing in great European players who are entering or are in their prime. That is the next step for MLS if they want to become a top soccer league.