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Will Jermain Defoe make England’s World Cup squad after move to Toronto?

Jan 14, 2014, 12:08 PM EDT

Toronto FC Introduce Jermain Defoe Getty Images

New Toronto FC signing Jermain Defoe was unveiled amongst much fanfare on Monday, as Major League Soccer’s newest star has landed in Ontario.

But will Defoe’s multi-year and multi-million dollar prevent him playing for the English national team?

That’s the question many have been asking on both sides of the pond, as England really don’t have anyone else in their squad that possesses the sublime finishing skills that Defoe has. Inevitably the question that is often asked to European players moving to MLS cropped up in Defoe’s first press conference as a Toronto player, as he was asked whether his move to the North American top-flight spelled the end of his England career.

“The most important thing for me is just playing football, scoring and doing well for the team,” Defoe said. “Hopefully, then I can be on a plane [to Brazil].”

But we all know it’s not that simple.

Eurosnobs out there, and there are plenty of you, would argue that Defoe is making a bad decision by leaving behind one of English soccer’s top six teams to join Toronto, a side that’s never made the MLS postseason. However the finances obviously come in to it here, as the England international is 31 and perhaps wanted one big pay day to finish his career. He’s got that. But will he get on the plan to Brazil and persuade Roy Hodgson to take him?

“I have to be honest, I did think about the chances of going to the World Cup,” Defoe said. “It’s always important to play well for your club, and having played in a World Cup before, it’s just the greatest thing in the world. It’s a dream come true. And yes, it did cross my mind, but at the same time I believe the MLS is going to be fantastic for me, and it’s important to be playing.”

(MORE: Where will new Toronto FC man Jermain Defoe fall in the ranking of MLS strikers?)

That’s the puzzler, because would Hodgson have picked Defoe had he stayed at Spurs and was on the bench like he had been for most of this season? Defoe has started just three PL games and made 10 appearances off the bench, so he wasn’t playing regularly but at Toronto he will be a regular starter and would be much sharper and fitter, in theory, to be a threat for England in Brazil.

Defoe doesn’t have to prove himself to anyone, he has scored 19 goals in 55 games for England and with Daniel Sturridge, Danny Welbeck, Rickie Lambert and Andy Carroll as England’s other options up top, apart from superstar Wayne Rooney who is a shoe-in to start, surely Defoe is in with a shout at playing for the Three Lions this summer?

“At the age of 31, I would like to think that the England manager [Roy Hodgson] and everyone in England knows what I can do, what I bring to the team. If selected I’ll be ready.”

MLS won’t suddenly turn Defoe into a bad player. The Republic of Ireland have persisted with Robbie Keane after his move to the LA Galaxy and he’s been great for club and country. So why can’t England use Defoe if he’s playing for Toronto?

  1. midtec2005 - Jan 14, 2014 at 12:20 PM

    Good article, another point worth mentioning is that this would be a good move for ANY player going into a world cup year… because he will be playing right up to the call-up date. He will quite literally be in mid-season form. I would take that as a positive, not a negative.

    • geojock - Jan 14, 2014 at 1:51 PM

      Agreed. MLS season has players perfectly set up to play in the world cup.

  2. mdac1012 - Jan 14, 2014 at 12:31 PM

    It was revealed during the press conference yesterday, I think during the one on one with Defoe on their website, that Hodgson told Defoe he would rather he be playing everyday in MLS than sitting on the bench in the EPL. He is probably on the fence regardless of where he is playing. A lot is going to depend on the form and fitness of the guys ahead of him in the pecking order at the time the call ups are made.

  3. danielofthedale - Jan 14, 2014 at 2:12 PM

    I would have to think that Roy told him he was not going to the World Cup or he is pretty close to a lock, for Defoe to make this move. I think making the jump mid season from Spurs with his World Cup spot in doubt I can’t think he would do it.

    • mdac1012 - Jan 14, 2014 at 2:22 PM

      How can anyone really promise anything one way or another? It depends a lot on the health of guys, their form …..etc. I would think Roy told him that a move to MLS wouldn’t automatically rule him out and he would take all those factors, that were previously mentioned, into account.

      But who knows, we all know MLS is viewed as a retirement league in Europe. Ribery even said he would consider coming to MLS when his real football playing days were over.

      • danielofthedale - Jan 14, 2014 at 2:32 PM

        You dot think a vast majority of players who will be at the World Cup don’t already now?

      • mdac1012 - Jan 14, 2014 at 6:54 PM

        Daniel, we all know the players who will defiantly be on the roster if they are healthy, but even in the case of a Wayne Rooney, a manager is never going to verbalize to a player “your defiantly going to be on the roster no matter what.” Why would he? In the case of a guy like Defoe, he is surely not going to give him an answer one way or the other because so much could change with his situation. Why lock yourself into a promise, that you don’t have to make?

  4. chadmoon1 - Jan 14, 2014 at 4:54 PM

    While players like Ribery disrespect the league with their words, Defoe comes with the right attitude. He is a professional and will treat TFC like he did Tottenham. If he is banging in goals at a good rate, he will go to Brazil.

    • danielofthedale - Jan 14, 2014 at 5:28 PM

      I would not want Ribery in MLS. He already said that he thinks little of the league and does not take it seriously. He would just dog it out there. Guys like Defoe, Keane, Cahill are who the league should look at now. Players that love the game and the completion and want to keep that passion burning. Though I can’t wait for be day when MLS is no longer chasing over 30 Euros.

      • midtec2005 - Jan 14, 2014 at 6:03 PM

        I completely agree about Ribery. I don’t even think he would do well in MLS, because these are still professional players… so if you aren’t competing hard you simply won’t perform well. Take a look at Rafa Marquez for a good example. He thought MLS was beneath him, so every single player in MLS was better than him.

  5. bear06 - Jan 15, 2014 at 2:02 AM

    @midtec2005: Ribery would easily dominate in the MLS.

    • midtec2005 - Jan 15, 2014 at 11:12 AM

      Not if he didn’t take it seriously…. Everyone knows he would if he wanted to, but he clearly doesn’t.

      • schmutzdeck - Jan 16, 2014 at 5:06 PM


        This whole argument is silly.

        If Ribery somehow winds up playing for an MLS team, he will have to take it seriously or he will wind up either getting hurt or getting played out of the league.

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