TORONTO - Unable to do his talking on the pitch, a frustrated Jermain Defoe did some venting Thursday.
The Toronto FC star said he may have to undergo an operation because of the persistent groin injury that has kept him out of 10 of the last 14 games. And the 32-year-old England striker says he is upset that some have questioned both his commitment to the club and whether he is really injured.
"There are a few fans that have said certain things and I'm like 'well that's a bit harsh,' but obviously I would never retaliate," he told reporters. "But at the same time, I think if you do want someone to stay at a football club, at least support them. At least show them that you want them to be here."
Defoe, sounding more hurt than angry during his 11-minute conversation with reporters, repeated he has never come out and said publicly that he wants to leave a club. But he has stopped short of saying he will be back in Toronto next season.
"At the end of the day, I don't know what the future holds," he said. "But what I would say is that I was desperate to get into the playoffs. It's something I would love to experience."
Toronto (11-14-8) was eliminated from playoff contention last weekend and will watch the post-season from the sidelines for the eight straight year.
Defoe leads Toronto with 11 goals in 19 games but has not scored since July 16. He has played just 387 minutes, over five six games, since then.
Head coach Greg Vanney said he has not heard that Defoe is unhappy or wants to move on.
But he said his star striker, after a season to experience the unique nature of MLS's travel and schedule, now has to make up his mind.
"Because there's a lot on the line, the club has done a lot for him, and he needs to be all-in," Vanney said. "If he's not all-in, then we have to come up with a solution and we need to find another solution for the club."
Defoe's future has been up in the air since Toronto turned down a club-record transfer bid at the end of the summer window. The new transfer window opens in January.
Defoe said such speculation is normal in Europe during the transfer window, when clubs regularly go after players.
"I can understand fans would be frustrated. Because as a fan I think I'd be a little bit frustrated, not with the player but with the situation where potentially, maybe a player could be leaving, a player that's not been here that long. So yeah I can understand that but at the same time I think what people need to realize is I never once came out publicly and said I want to leave the club.
"There's players that come out and say 'Yeah, I want to leave,' that hand in transfer requests. But I just get on with the football. I just let my football do the talking, then whatever happens happens."
Defoe did not help himself after the transfer window closed Sept. 1, limiting himself to a pair of tweets from England, where his injury was being treated, before meeting the media in Toronto on Sept. 24.
Vanney agreed that the information void did not help cap speculation.
"He could definitely have helped himself if he had would have jumped out publicly immediately saying 'Hang on a second, I want to be here. There's nothing to this other than I need to get right.' I clearly think that would have helped himself for sure."
The transfer window, coupled with Defoe's injury and rumours from England led to "a perfect storm of events that is easy for people to draw a conclusion that he's not engaged or not wanting to be here," said Vanney. "I can say just personally, from his mouth to ours, I've never heard that he doesn't want to be here."
Asked if he had been unfairly characterized this year, Defoe replied "100 per cent."
"Throughout my career, I've never been criticized with my commitment because I love football," he said. "I always say I'm part of the old school, where I came from and how my parents brought me up. Not just my mom, my grandparents and everyone.
"And then you read things. Obviously social media is powerful and I see things from the fans. I try not to read it. But I'm only human and obviously I want to read things. And you want people to like you. You want the fans to realize that you love playing for the club and you love football. But I suppose people over here don't really know me as well as the people back home.
"It's just sometimes I read it and I say to myself 'Are they talking about me? They must be getting the wrong person.' It's part and parcel, I suppose, of playing football. I take it on the chin, I'm professional. As long as I know in my heart that I'm committed, then I suppose the rest doesn't really bother me."
Vanney will presumably hear Defoe's intentions for 2015 at end-of-season player meetings.
"Candidly I'm not really sure what to expect," he said when asked whether he expects Defoe to be in training camp. "I know he plays the game, he wants to be successful, I know he wants to score goals.
"What I'm not sure is now that he's spent a year in the league, what are his true feeling about this league and the decision that he's made and does want to really see this out? And is this really where he wants to really push his career. These are all conversations that we're going to have once this season closes. I have not had those conversations with him.
"I think it's a dialogue. And I think by and large we want people who want to be here for more than one year, for more than two years, that can really help us pull this group together and win. That takes a big commitment. We would like to have him back if Jermain is ready to play and is healthy and his mind's in the right place and he believes in the project, which is for us to be successful."
Vanney knows that the club is much better with a healthy Defoe. Toronto went 6-0-2 this year when Defoe scored.
"He is a fantastic player when all things are right for him, so if we can get that guy back, I'll take him," he said.
Defoe will miss out on Saturday's season finale in New England because of his groin injury and plans to see a specialist in Germany. A sports hernia operation may be in the cards.
"It's something that I need fixing, because it's stopping me from what I really want to do in games," he said. "The main thing for me is shooting. At the minute, I'm shooting with pain."
Defoe said it came to a head two games ago against the New York Red Bulls, the last time he played.
"I really struggled," he said. "In the second half, it wasn't really Jermain Defoe. I couldn't really turn sharp, I couldn't really hit any shots. I was just trying to adapt my game, basically just to be on the pitch, just trying to help the team. But in a way, not helping myself because I couldn't perform how I normally do."
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