TORONTO — Former MLS MVP Sebastian Giovinco is back with Toronto FC, training with the team without a contract at present.
The Italian star, who turned 35 on Wednesday, left the MLS club in January 2019 when Toronto, unwilling to meet his contract demands, sold him to Saudi Arabia's Al-Hilal FC.
Giovinco, who maintained a residence in Toronto, left the Saudi club last August by mutual agreement and has made no secret of his desire to rejoin TFC.
But the fact he is with the team in camp does not mean he will be back in red this season.
The former Juventus forward would have to go through the league's allocation process, which regulates the return of former MLS players, among others, to the league. Toronto currently stands third on the allocation list, behind Inter Miami and FC Cincinnati.
And before Toronto sorts that out, it would have to determine if the player known as the Atomic Ant was worth bringing back — and at a price it could afford.
News of Giovinco being back surfaced Thursday when the club, which arrived in California on Jan. 18 for training camp, finally released its camp roster.
Giovinco, the top earner in MLS in 2018 at US$7.115 million, is Toronto's all-time leading scorer.
In four seasons with Toronto, Giovinco had 68 goals and 52 assists in 114 regular-season games (111 starts).
He won MVP honours in his debut 2015 season, when he was directly involved in 65 per cent of Toronto's 58 goals with 22 goals and 16 assists. In all competitions, he had 83 goals and 64 assists in 142 appearances.
With question-marks over the future of designated players Jozy Altidore and Yeferson Soteldo, who are both not in camp, and Italian star Lorenzo Insigne not coming to the club until July, TFC is short on attacking options.
The roster lists returnees Ifunanyachi Achara, Ayo Akinola, Jayden Nelson and Jordan Perruzza, plus 2022 draft pick Reshaun Walkes, trialist Wilson Harris, Hugo Mbongue of Toronto FC II and recent signing Deandre Kerr at forward.
A club spokesman said the roster only covers players in camp, which explains the absence of Canadian midfielder Jonathan Osorio and Jamaican defender Kemar Lawrence, who are away on international duty.
Soteldo, currently with Venezuela, is expected to be on the move from TFC with talk of a swap with Mexico's Tigres for Mexican international defender Carlos Salcedo.
Toronto FC Camp Eoster
Goalkeepers: Alex Bono, Luka Gavran (unsigned draft choice), Greg Ranjitsingh, Andrea Vaikla (Toronto FC II), Quentin Westberg.
Defenders: Auro Jr, Kadin Chung (trialist), Kobe Franklin (Toronto FC II), Rohan Goulbourne (Toronto FC II), Lukas MacNaughton, Talen Maples (Toronto FC II), Chris Mavinga, Shane O’Neill, Luca Petrasso, Luke Singh, Damia Viader (trialist).
Midfielders: Michael Bradley, Dante Campbell (Toronto FC II), Antonio Carlini, Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty, Noble Okello, Alejandro Pozuelo, Ralph Priso, Jacob Shaffelburg, Kosi Thompson (Toronto FC II).
Forwards: Ifunanyachi Achara, Ayo Akinola, Sebastian Giovinco (invited to train), Wilson Harris (trialist), Deandre Kerr, Hugo Mbongue, Jayden Nelson, Jordan Perruzza, Reshaun Walkes (unsigned draft choice).
Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2022.
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press