Canadian forward Jonathan David has a verbal agreement to join France’s Lille for a Canadian-record transfer fee of 30 million euros ($47.3-million), according to a source with knowledge of the deal.
The source, not authorized to speak because the deal has yet to be finalized, said the two sides are in the paperwork stage.
The 20-year-old David, voted Canada’s player of the year in 2019, tied for leading scorer in the top Belgian league this season with 18 goals for KAA Gent.
Lille (15-9-4) was fourth in France’s top-tier Ligue 1 when the season was put on hold due to the global pandemic. England’s Leeds United and Arsenal were also reportedly interested in the young Canadian.
“He’s a special talent,” Canada coach John Herdman said last September. “I think he’s got big things coming.”
How special? With 11 goals in just 12 senior appearances, he is already halfway to matching Dwayne De Rosario’s Canadian men’s record of 22 national team goals. De Rosario, who doubled as an attacking midfielder and forward, compiled his total in 81 games between 1997 and 2015.
Six of those David goals came at the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup, where he won the Golden Boot as top scorer and was named to the tournament’s Best XI.
The previous Canadian record transfer was Alphonso Davies’ move to Bayern Munich from the Vancouver Whitecaps. That July 2018 deal involved a fixed transfer fee and additional compensation that could total more than $29.5-million.
David is a right-place, right-time type of attacker. He can find a crease in the defence and knows what to do in front of the goal, able to score with both feet or his head.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., David was three months old when his family moved to its native Haiti and six when the family came north to Ottawa. He played for Gloucester Dragons Soccer, Ottawa Gloucester SC and Ottawa Internationals Soccer Club, representing Canada at the under-17 level.
A trial with KAA Gent came in 2017 after a scout saw him on video. He went to Belgium twice that year, spending time with the second team before earning a full-time invitation. After finishing high school in Ottawa, he returned to Europe to focus full time on his soccer.
David had to wait until he turned 18 in January 2018 before he could sign a pro contract. In June 2018, he turned heads in Canadian colours at the renowned Toulon youth tournament in France.
He moved up the ranks rapidly after starting with the Gent reserves.
“Then from there, at the end of that season with the second team, everything went really really fast,” he recalled in an interview last September. “I got in with the first team in pre-season, played some good games, scored some goals and had my opportunity. Then (I) kept scoring goals.
“From there, everything just escalated.”
He scored in his league debut for Gent with a late equalizer against Zulte-Waregem as a substitute.
David made his senior debut for Canada in September 2018 in an 8-0 Nations League qualifying game against the U.S. Virgin Islands. Thirty-two minutes into the match, he was the youngest player ever to score for the country in his debut. Another five minutes later, he was the fifth player to score twice in his first outing for Canada.
David set a Canadian men’s record with eight international goals in 2019, a mark matched soon after when fellow striker Lucas Cavallini tied the eight-goal record a month later.
David, who grew up a striker but is comfortable playing all across the frontline, joined a select group with 20-plus combined goals for club and country.
Since the turn of the century, Canada Soccer says only five other Canadian men have scored 20-plus goals in a calendar year: Tomasz Radzinski (2000, he also did it in 1999), Simeon Jackson (2009), Olivier Occean (2011), De Rosario (2011) and Cyle Larin (2015).