Jermain Defoe looks set to join Bournemouth, the club where he made his name as a youngster, on a free transfer from Sunderland. According to a report in The Guardian, the 34-year-old has agreed a three-year deal in principle that will pay him £20 million, including a hefty signing-on fee. Defoe has invoked a relegation clause inserted into his contract at Sunderland, which allows him to leave the club as a free agent.
Defoe is no stranger to the south coast club, having enjoyed a successful loan spell from West Ham United as an 18-year-old back in the 2000/01 campaign. During that season, he famously netted in 10 successive matches in the old Second Division, which was then a post-war record, scoring 18 league goals in total.
What would Defoe bring to Bournemouth?
Like a fine wine, Defoe seems to get better with age. In a dreadful Sunderland side, he has netted 30 Premier League goals in 66 matches – 15 in each of the past two seasons. Without his goals this term, the Black Cats’ fate would have been sealed long before relegation was eventually confirmed. His form also earned him an England recall, which he marked with a goal in the victory over Lithuania two months ago. Defoe is one of the most natural finishers of the Premier League era and with 158 to his name, he ranks eighth in the all-time list.
It is his predatory instinct in front of goal which appears to have persuaded Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe to part with a significant outlay to land Defoe, who is set to become the highest-paid player in the club’s history. The Cherries were linked with the former Tottenham Hotspur sharpshooter during last year’s summer transfer window, but Sunderland’s survival put paid to a potential bid. Now however, the road is clear for Defoe to return to a club where he has fond memories.
Howe and his assistant Jason Tindall, played with Defoe during his loan spell at the turn of the millennium (Tindall actually shared a flat with the striker) and so the management duo are acutely aware of what he has to offer. Bournemouth are renowned for playing attractive, expansive football. Howe will hope that Defoe can be be the fox in the box who can put away the countless opportunities his side create.
Joshua King has been a revelation for the Cherries this season, scoring 16 times in the Premier League, and could form a lethal partnership with Defoe. Benik Afobe appears to be the player whose place would be most at risk from the potential arrival of the England man.
How likely is this transfer? Very. Most media outlets are reporting that a deal is virtually agreed. Indeed, an official announcement could be made within the next 48 hours. It would be a massive coup for Bournemouth to attract a man of Defoe's calibre. Howe has assembled a young squad that finished ninth in the Premier League - bettering last season's 16th-place finish - and he wants to push on again.
The Cherries boss has made no secret of his desire to add some experienced heads to his ranks and Defoe fits the bill perfectly. He is a seasoned professional but still has much to offer at the highest level, as his goalscoring record since returning to the Premier League from a brief spell in the MLS has shown. It could be a match made in heaven.