Playmaker Pozuelo eager to start new chapter in Toronto

TORONTO – Protracted transfer wrangling complete, Alejandro Pozuelo is eager to get on the field and concentrate on the game.

Toronto FC's newest Designated Player was introduced to the media and supporters on Monday afternoon at BMO Field following the completion of his move to MLS from Belgian club KRC Genk.

Reports first emerged at the end of January, but it took until March 4 for a deal to be reached. Pozuelo called that period “a difficult month.”

“It's difficult to explain for me,” said the 27-year old Spanish midfielder of the process through a translator. “The most important thing is I'm here now and I'm excited to be with the club. I don't want to talk about the past.”

TFC president Bill Manning took up the details.

“Alejandro was under contract with [KRC] Genk. He had a release clause and there was some disagreement about when [it] could be exercised,” summarized Manning of the situation. “Ali [Curtis basically] lived in Belgium, came back and forth over 30 days from the end of January to end of February, we worked closely with Alejandro, his agent, and Genk.”

“At the end of the day, no one wanted to go to arbitration; we were able to get a deal done,” said Manning. “He's a quality player, they didn't want him to go and we did not want to wait.”

With the offseason departures of Victor Vazquez and Sebastian Giovinco, Manning stressed the importance of Pozuelo's timely arrival: “We wanted someone of his talent and ability to join us sooner than later. It was frustrating for him to wait so long.”

In limbo as to where his future would be, Pozuelo admitted: “It was very difficult, for me, my family, my agent.”

“There is a relief now that I'm here,” continued Pozuelo, crediting TFC general manager Curtis for the support he provided throughout. “I'm looking forward to training and having my first game with TFC.”

What sold him on Toronto being the right place were conversations with his countryman, Vazquez, and Belgian defender Laurent Ciman, who joined TFC this winter.

“I [spoke] with a lot friends that played here, about Toronto, the city, the club: very amazing,” relayed Pozuelo in English. “This is the important thing for me, for my family also. This is why I'm here.”

After three-plus seasons with Genk, it was time for a new challenge.

“It's enough,” said Pozuelo of his time in Belgium, where he had become a focal point, both for Genk and the opponent. “Everybody looked to me when we play; the other team always put one guy in behind me. It's difficult to continue play like this. I need to change. When you play a lot of years in one team, for the mental [aspect], you need to change. Toronto is the best option for me.”

Though he drew interest from Saudi Arabian side Al Ahly SC, it was not reciprocal.

“It's simple,” explained Pozuelo of that decision. “First in my life is my wife and children. The best option for me and for my family is here. The problems for the wives in Arabia; also for the football. It's very different: MLS [will] go up; there is a lot of money [in Saudi Arabia], but [the football is] not interesting.”

Ensconced in his new home, Pozuelo is hoping to make his debut on Friday when TFC welcome NYCFC to town (8 pm ET | TSN4/5 in Canada; MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in US).

“It's been quite a process,” added his new coach, Greg Vanney. “Today was his first training session with the group. He's in the same position I am: looking forward to the football, to playing, getting all this behind us, and getting on the field.”