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'I would have accepted less to stay' - Giovinco reluctantly swaps Toronto for Al-Hilal

10:34 GMT+3 31/01/2019
SebastianGiovinco-cropped
The Canada based club confirmed the Italian striker has completed a switch to Saudi Arabia, after four years in the MLS

Sebastian Giovinco has made the move from Toronto to Saudi Arabian side Al-Hilal, the MLS club confirmed on Wednesday.

Giovinco, 32, joined Toronto from Juventus in 2015 and starred for the club, scoring 83 goals and providing 64 assists in 142 games in all competitions.

The Italian led the club to the Supporters' Shield and MLS Cup in 2017, while he was named the MLS MVP in 2015.

"I'd like to thank the fans and my team-mates for four special years playing for Toronto FC," Giovinco said in a statement.

"I'd also like to thank the club for helping me as I transition into the next phase of my career."

Toronto president Bill Manning paid tribute to Giovinco, labelling the forward the club's greatest ever player.

"This was an extremely emotional transaction for our club. We'd like to thank Seba for all he did for TFC during his time with the club," he said.

"He gave our fans many thrilling moments during his four years, especially during our championship season in 2017.

"He leaves Toronto as the greatest player in club history. We wish Seba and his family nothing but the best as he begins a new chapter."

Giovinco later released a more detailed statement on Instagram, revealing that he would have preferred to remain in Toronto and was ultimately forced out of the club against his will.

"As I have always maintained, I was hoping to renew my contract and finish my playing career in a city that feels like home," Giovinco began. "A place my family loves to live and wanted to call home for good.

"Unfortunately, this desire of ours has clashed with a change in direction with current TFC management. For the 2 years I have been seeking to extend my contract, however, management was reluctant.

"Recently, after refusing to exercise the club option for 2020, I was offered terms that I deemed unacceptable. They may say I left for a more lucrative deal, but this is not the case. Their offer and lack of transparency is a clear message. It seems management prefers to focus on things other than the pure desire to win.

"After having grown the brand and elevating the overall reputation of TFC both at home and abroad, it seems I no longer serve a purpose. I would have accepted less to stay in Toronto."

Two-time defending league champions Al-Hilal are three points clear atop the Saudi Professional League table this season.

They are also in Group C in the AFC Champions League and will face Al-Duhail, Al-Ain and Esteghlal in a competition they last won in 2000.