Sebastian Giovinco – The New King of Major League Soccer
LA Galaxy’s signing of David Beckham in 2007 was the catalyst for unprecedented growth in Major League Soccer, with some of the game’s greatest players choosing to follow his lead and see out their twilight years in North America. Stars such as Juninho Pernambucano and Thierry Henry graced the MLS after Beckham’s arrival and the league has consistently boasted an impressive list of household names ever since. This list has grown substantially in 2015 with former Ballon d’Or winner Kaká, World Cup winners Andrea Pirlo and David Villa, as well as English legends Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard all making the move to the fastest growing league in the world.
Each of these players have, however, passed their 30th birthday and as a consequence are perhaps no longer in their prime. It is natural then that MLS has a growing reputation as an ‘old-age home’ for European stars, with the suggestion being that these former greats, no longer able to compete at the highest level, opt for one last boost to their retirement funds in the warmer conditions of North America. There is, however, an exception to this norm. That exception is Sebastian Giovinco.
Giovinco; once heralded as one of the games brightest stars, joined Canadian-based Toronto FC from Juventus in January. The decision by Giovinco to leave a European superpower for MLS was an unprecedented step by a player aged only 27 at the time. The diminutive Italian’s career had stalled prior to his cross-continent move and many felt that by joining Toronto he was choosing money over football. It looked a certainty that Giovinco’s previously stuttering career would now come to a screeching halt.
11 months later and things couldn’t look any different for Giovinco. The Italian dominated MLS like few, if any, have done before him and went on his way to collect the MLS Golden Boot, Top Assist Provider and MVP awards. The former Parma prodigy netted a club-record 22 goals in his debut season, including the first ever hat-trick in MLS by a Toronto player. Giovinco’s goal scoring exploits were complimented by his equally brilliant creative play and in September he became the first ever MLS player to score 20 goals and create 10 assists in the same season. By the time the regular season drew to a close last month, Giovinco had contributed towards 38 goals (22 goals and 16 assists) and broke another record by becoming the first player to win both the Golden Boot and Top Assist Provider awards in the same season.
Where all eyes had been on the global superstars mentioned above at the start of the season, it was Sebastian Giovinco who had stolen all the limelight by the time the campaign drew to a close.
Giovinco’s incredible performances helped Toronto to their first ever appearance in the MLS play-offs where they fell short at the hands of Montreal Impact. Despite the disappointment of defeat and a lack of silverware, Giovinco’s individual brilliance this season has many pundits singing his praises, with some even going so far as to suggest that he is already one of the greatest players in MLS history.
Such a suggestion is not far off either. Never before has MLS boasted a player with the raw and untamed ability that Giovinco brings to the league. Though the Italian might never be considered in the same light as the Beckham’s and Henry’s of the world in terms of prime-ability, his contribution to MLS is already the stuff legends are made of. The impact Beckham and co made in terms of reputation is immeasurable but it is the quality that Giovinco has brought to MLS that will see it grow to new heights.
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