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The Globe and Mail

MLSE boss Leiweke needs to temper bold statements

I like Tim Leiweke's bold pronouncements as much as anyone. The way he leads with his chin; the way he is completely unafraid to throw around the financial heft of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd.; the way he name-drops Madison Square Garden when referencing the Air Canada Centre.

There's no point in being MLSE if you can't toss around the odd elbow. Where's the fun in that?

But there are times when you'd like a little more circumspection from MLSE (owner of the NHL's Toronto Maple Leafs, NBA's Toronto Raptors and Toronto FC of the MLS).

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Two times this week, in fact, and we're not done yet.

The whole MLSE/Jon Bon Jovi/Larry Tanenbaum link with the NFL's Buffalo Bills was unnecessary – not because it effectively stole the thunder from the Grey Cup in Southern Ontario, but because it created unnecessary noise around a matter of some delicacy.

And Toronto FC fans were once again tantalized by a Daily Mirror report that Tottenham forward Jermain Defoe had agreed to a $10.3-million (U.S.) deal with the Major League Soccer team that would see Defoe paid $153,000 per week.

Coupled with this rumour were continued reports out of Italy that Genoa striker Alberto Gilardino had agreed to a $9.5-million deal with TFC.

Samuel Eto'o has also been linked with TFC, and it's enough to make you long for the days of Diego Forlan, no?

This isn't to blame Leiweke or MLSE for the Gilardino and Defoe rumours. TFC head coach Ryan Nelsen has regularly fanned the flames of a Defoe move – the pair were teammates at Tottenham – and any soccer fan will tell you there is no other sport on the planet that thrives on rumours like this one. There are entire newspapers in Europe that are one running set of transfer rumours. If you catch any of the coverage from across the pond on transfer deadline day, you'll see it makes NHL trade deadline day pale in comparison.

The existence of transfer windows does little to temper the churning; Manchester United pulls a stinker at the end of the summer transfer window and speculation shifts immediately to the winter window.

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So, this is just a taste. Factored in is Defoe's status as a non-regular for Spurs, at a time when he is no longer a first-choice for England manager Roy Hodgson.

The nexus of these TFC rumours is, of course, Leiweke's bold statements about the team's intent, going so far as identifying a country of interest in a conference call early in the off-season. Fair play, that: Leiweke has become a symbol of hope for long-suffering TFC fans, perhaps the most abused and taken-for-granted group of sports fans in the country. (TFC has missed the playoffs all seven seasons of its existence.)

Yet, this song and dance has become nonsensical. Gilardino alone is a waste, since there isn't a player on the TFC roster that could provide him the service he requires. Defoe, frankly, makes more sense since he is capable of leading the build-up as well as finishing, but even then, TFC would need to find players competent enough to keep up with him.

Put the two of them together and it might work, but that's one big salary nut.

TFC issued a statement Wednesday morning calling the Defoe report "inaccurate." It is possible, of course, this is as much an issue of timing as anything else; that the team and players and their representatives have done considerable leg work and have most of their ducks lined up.

But considering that when Philip Anschutz pulled Anschutz Entertainment Group off the market – a move that expedited Leiweke's departure from AEG – the normally reclusive billionaire told The Los Angeles Times he did so because the potential sale had "become a very noisy process," it is something of a reminder.

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Enough of the teasing. Time for something substantive. Soon.

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