Toronto FC Deny Sebastian Giovinco Transfer Rumours, Al-Hilal Deal

Gianni Verschueren@ReverschPassFeatured ColumnistJanuary 28, 2019

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 19:  Sebastian Giovinco #10 of Toronto FC looks on during the first half of the 2018 Campeones Cup Final against Tigres UANL at BMO Field on September 19, 2018 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

MLS club Toronto FC have denied speculation Sebastian Giovinco is set to join Al-Hilal, explaining the Italian left camp due to a medical issue and not to finalise a move. 

As shared by Italian Football TV, press from the Italian peninsula picked up on his absence from camp, with a Gazetta dello Sport reporter even suggesting a deal with Saudi Arabian club Al-Hilal had already been secured:

A Toronto representative said those reports are wide of the mark, however, per ESPN FC's Jeff Carlisle:

"In recent days, rumours have suggested Giovinco is heading to Saudi Arabian club Al-Hilal, with Saudi Arabian daily Al Jazirah reporting that he had been issued with an entry visa.

"The report that Giovinco had left the camp added to the impression that his departure was increasingly likely, but the team representative said he had travelled to Los Angeles to see a specialist about tightness in his leg at the request of his agent, Andrea D'Amico.

"Manager Gregg Vanney gave Giovinco permission to see the specialist, and the player is expected to return to Toronto's camp later on Monday."

Carlisle added sources said there has been no offer from the Saudi Arabian Pro League club, but that does not mean there is no interest and a bid could still arrive. The 32-year-old is in the final year of his current contract.

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Giovinco himself has responded to the speculation and left the door open:

The former Juventus man has been a smash hit since joining Toronto in 2015. The Atomic Ant quickly established himself as one of the top players in MLS, winning the Golden Boot and MVP Award in his debut campaign.

He also guided the Canadians to the MLS Cup and a domestic treble in 2017.

The Italian is the team's first ever 50-goal scorer:

Al-Hilal are Saudi Arabia's most successful club and have a long history of adding strong overseas players. Rivelino, Christian Wilhelmsson and Thiago Neves are but three examples, while Bafetimbi Gomis and Andre Carrillo are currently members of the squad.

Losing the popular Giovinco would be a tough pill to swallow for Toronto, but the trickster is coming off his worst season yet with the club. He managed a respectable 13 goals and 7 assists in the 2018 MLS season, but it's fair to wonder whether his production will dip further with age.

Add to that his contract situation, and a big-money move to Saudi Arabia could be in the best interest of both parties. Toronto couldn't qualify for the play-offs the past season and their run of dominance appears over; it might be a good time to load up for the future and turn the team over to younger players.

Giovinco never had the opportunity to land a massive contract while in Europe so he'll likely be keen to cash in. Al-Hilal will have to offer tremendous wages to lure him away from MLS, setting him up for a nice payday.