MLS champion Toronto FC has strengthened its right side by signing Dutch international defender Gregory van der Wiel from Italy's Cagliari.
The 29-year-old excelled at Ajax and Paris Saint-Germain, but has seen limited action since moving to Turkey's Fenerbahce in 2016 and Cagliari in 2017.
Van der Wiel fills a void left by the free-agent departure of Steven Beitashour to Los Angeles FC, although Toronto does have Liechtenstein international Nico Hasler. Toronto also lost wingback Raheem Edwards, now with Montreal, during the off-season.
After six months with a "smaller team" in Italy, van der Wiel said he was happy to be with a Toronto team that is always looking to add to its trophy case — like Ajax and PSG.
"I learned this about myself that I really need to be around winners and people who have the same mentality as me and want to win with a high goal," he said in an interview on the club Twitter feed. "That's why I'm also happy to be joining this winning team. They won last year, they know how it is to win and they want to win every day again. I think that fits perfect for me."
Van der Wiel has earned 46 caps for the Netherlands, starting for the Dutch team that finished runner-up to Spain in the 2010 FIFA World Cup. He was also part of the Dutch Euro 2012 squad.
"We are excited to bring Gregory van der Wiel to Toronto FC. He is an experienced player that has played with some big clubs in Europe and has represented his country at multiple international tournaments," Toronto GM Tim Bezbatchenko said in a statement Thursday.
"Gregory has a great defensive sense and will provide an upside on the ball with his strong distribution when in the attacking third. He will be a welcomed addition to our club as we continue to strive to improve as a team."
Van der Wiel was acquired with targeted allocated money, funds designed to help MLS teams acquire or reduce the salary cap hit of elite players.
Toronto's interest in Van der Wiel was no secret and the player has not exactly been hiding in recent days.
He and girlfriend Rose Bertram, a Belgian model, were courtside at the Raptors' game against the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday. Bezbatchenko, who declined comment last week on the club's reported interest in van der Wiel, was sitting next to the right back at the Air Canada Centre.
Van der Wiel was wearing a Raptors top.
On Wednesday, Van der Wiel's Instagram account showed a snowy city shot with a We the North logo.
Multiple reports had linked him to Toronto. L'Equipe and the Dutch news outlet Telesport both had reported the right back would sign a two-year deal with Toronto.
Toronto's only other acquisitions in the off-season have been homegrown forward Ayo Akinola and midfielder Liam Fraser, promoted from Toronto FC 2.
The club also said goodbye to Oyvind Alseth, Armando Cooper, Benoit Cheyrou and Jason Hernandez, all of whom had been on the first-team roster.
Van der Wiel made just six appearances with Cagliari in all competitions.
He started his youth career in Amsterdam with his hometown club Ajax in 1996, making his debut with the first team in March 2007. In seven seasons with Ajax, van der Wiel made 191 appearances with 12 goals and 17 assists in all competitions.
In 2009-10, he won the Johan Cruyff Award for Dutch Young Player of the Year, joining the likes of Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder, Robin van Persie, Patrick Kluivert, Clarence Seedorf and former Toronto FC manager Aron Winter.
Van der Wiel moved to PSG in September 2012. In four seasons with PSG, making 132 appearances in four seasons, scoring four goals and adding 22 assists in all competitions.
Van der Wiel made 17 appearances for Fenerbahce after his PSG contract expired at the end of the 2016 season. He left after one season to join Cagliari.
He is a winner.
With PSG, he captured four consecutive Ligue 1 titles (2012—13, 2013—14, 2014—15, 2015—16), back-to-back Coupe de France titles (2014—15, 2015—16), three consecutive Coupe de la Ligue (2013—14, 2014—15, 2015—16) and the Trophee des Champions on three occasions (2013—14, 2014—15, 2015—16).
He helped Ajax to two Eredivisie league titles, two KNVB Cups and one Johan Cruijff Shield.