Welcome to Partially Obstructed View. We are each restrained by the limits of our own perspective, but when we meet to share information a clearer picture of the truth can be revealed. Comments & criticisms are welcome.

Thursday 9 June 2011

What’s Up with Julian?

    Julian de Guzman was, until recently, Canada’s brightest footballing star. Following a youth career that saw him soar from Scarborough to Marseille, he began his professional career in the 2nd German Bundesliga, worked his way up to the 1st division, and earned a transfer to La Liga’s Deportivo La Coruña where after a slow start to life in Spain he adapted and was named the club’s player of the season.

    The downfall began as a dispute between himself and the Spanish club over financial matters. Monies owed to him for appearances, image rights and bonuses failed to materialize prompting difficulties as the two parties discussed a new contract. At the time rumours of interest in the solid midfielder were coming from Germany, England and within Spain.

    When satisfactory contract offers failed to materialize de Guzman accepted the far-fetched, fan-appeasing, and desperation-inspired move put forth by then director of soccer, Maurice Johnston, to Toronto FC. Mo had been under-fire from media and fans alike for the poor product he and MLSE had been selling – at times it seemed Mo’s scouting circles consisted of friendly agents and fan message boards – so this attempt at bringing back a hometown hero, as with Dwayne De Rosario, was meant to placate the unrest in the stands.

    While Toronto FC fans are renowned for their passion, at times their knowledge of the game is lost in the fire. Julian was never an offensive force, he could contribute on occasion, but it was simply not a part of his game as practiced for 9 seasons in Europe. Some appeared to think that his signing of a DP (designated player) contract should have had him become a different player; the box-to-box goal-scorer they desired.

    One can never blame an athlete for their contract. The club drafts the final edit, agrees and oversees all inclusions, and the blame rests with them should there be unhappiness with it post-agreement.

    Some make wild claims that TFC is better without Julian, spurious to be sure, as his strength in the defensive midfield has made disastrous seasons of poor matches much better than could have been. It is true that at times he has played poorly, passes have gone astray and his frustrations have become evident. When he is not on the field, seldom has the team done well, and usually they look lost without him.

    Perhaps was he to tally his first goal some of that bad-will would dissolve in the joy of the occasion. And this relationship could progress with a better understanding by those parties involved.

    As Sean Keay discussed on the Footy Show podcast, returning home to Toronto was never going to be an easy transition. de Guzman had spent 12 years overseas, away from his family, friends and the trappings that come with them. That focus that guided him to a brilliant - by Canadian standards – career could easily be lost in the comforts of home. Could it be that these everyday distractions that had been an ocean away have eaten away at his game?

    Did his blackballing from a career that should have continued in Europe and the sting of not being paid in full and on time for his hard work leave him jaded towards the so-called professionalism of the game?

    Those possibilities combined with a nagging knee injury that was rarely discussed, the adaptation period that all players must struggle with as they switch leagues, and the general dysfunction that he encountered both on and off the pitch in Toronto would have an influence over his overall game.

    TFC has been a mess since its inception. Julian is the perfect centrepiece to build new coach Aron Winter’s philosophy around. He will be a hero, idol, and mentor to the academy; he can be an inspiration to his teammates and fans, if he is given the support he needs to succeed. The fans must get off his back, appreciate him for his skills, not worry about his wage packed, and cheer the man that did Canada proud in the best leagues in Europe. The team needs to surround him with players that can do their jobs well and combine with him to create a functional whole worthy of the support.

    Julian is still a young man; he has many more good years to give to TFC. With this understanding and some patience, he can still be the cornerstone for this organization to build itself into a true club; to compete in MLS and to represent well internationally while bringing fans and success to Toronto. He hasn’t been given the chance to succeed yet, and his career has earned him that. 

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