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Toronto FC sells star Sebastian Giovinco to Saudi Arabian side Al-Hilal FC

Toronto FC has sold forward Sebastian Giovinco (10) to Saudi Arabian side Al-Hilal FC. (Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports)

Toronto FC announced Wednesday night it has sold forward Sebastian Giovinco to Saudi Arabian side Al-Hilal FC, marking the end of an era for The Reds and Major League Soccer.

Giovinco, who won MLS MVP, MLS Golden Boot and MLS Newcomer of the Year honors in 2015, was a dynamic playmaker throughout his career. He is TFC’s all-time leading scorer across all competitions with 83 goals, setting numerous club and league records along the way.

Terms of the sale were not released, but Al-Hilal reportedly was expected to pay Toronto FC $2-$3 million for the chance to sign Giovinco to a three-year deal worth nearly $11.5 million per season, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport’s Nicolo Schiarra.

“Seba is any GM’s dream. Coming into the organization, I was really excited to work with him and get to know him as a person and as a player,” Toronto FC General Manager Ali Curtis said in a news released announcing the sale. “We believe in consistency, so this transfer hits hard in a lot of places. I have so much respect for Sebastian as a player and what he has meant to the organization. His departure presents both challenges and opportunities. Obviously, replacing a player like Sebastian is difficult, but we are working diligently and are confident that we will be adding a new Designated Player in the near future who will be an exciting addition to our team.”

Rumors have swirled about the 32-year-old Italian striker’s future with Toronto for weeks.

During MLS Media Day on Jan. 19, Giovinco said he wanted clarity.

“I hope [they] can say something about my future, no?” Giovinco said. “I do what I do for the club, for the team. I deserve to know my future for the club, the truth. If they want me to stay, or they don’t want me anymore. But at least they have to say something. Because I don’t see anything. They [are] scared to say something, no? Why are they waiting to say the truth?

“I’ve loved my time there, and if it continues, fantastic, because I’ve set roots there. My family loves it there. But at the same time, if it doesn’t work out and I do end up leaving, I’m looking forward to it, also. I’ll be a free agent, so to speak. So I’ll have an opportunity I’ve never had in my career, in terms of playing in different places and being free.”

During the weekend, Toronto FC reportedly was in negotiations to sell Giovinco to Al-Hilal FC. He was held out of training, adding to the speculation a transfer was in the works. 

Giovinco first joined Toronto FC on Jan. 19, 2015, from Juventus.

During four seasons with The Reds, Giovinco made 142 appearances with 83 goals and 64 assists across all competitions. He helped anchor TFC’s 2017 Treble-winning side, adding two additional Canadian Championships (2016, 2018) and two Eastern Conference Championships (2016, 2017). He also helped TFC reach the final of the 2018 Concacaf Champions League.

He was named to the MLS Best XI three times (2015, 2016, 2017) and was an MLS All-Star four times (2015, 2016, 2017, 2018). Giovinco was the George Gross Memorial Trophy winner (2017), the 2018 Concacaf Champions League Golden Ball winner and was named to both the Concacaf and Concacaf Champions League Best XI in 2018.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber said during MLS Cup the league needed to take advantage of more sale opportunities.

Team owners have followed suit, with TFC’s Giovinco and Atlanta United’s Miguel Almirón among MLS’ highest profile departures during the preseason.

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