TALKS OVER a January exit for Jozy Altidore are still at an early stage, despite significant interest to take the Sunderland striker back to America.
Reports emerged earlier this week that three sides in the MLS are vying to take Altidore back to his homeland and end his miserable 18 month spell at the Stadium of Light, where he has gone more than a year without finding the net in the Premier League.
The Gazette understands that a departure for Altidore is a distinct possibility this month and there have been discussions with the MLS.
But sources in America have indicated that those talks are yet to reach the stage of agreeing a fee for Altidore, who cost Sunderland £7million from Dutch side AZ Alkmaar in the summer of 2013.
A return to the US looks the most likely exit route for Altidore now though, with the Gazette reporting last month how French side Lille – who have held a long-term interest in the 25-year-old – only willing to sign him on loan this month.
And while Altidore has previously expressed reservations over returning to the MLS at this stage of his career, the former New York Red Bulls frontman has acknowledged he needs to play regular first-team football after starting just two Premier League games for Sunderland since March.
The MLS is eager to land US internationals to raise the competition’s profile, and spent around 10 million dollars on a transfer fee to sign midfielder Michael Bradley last January.
Given Altidore’s high profile across the Atlantic too, the league would likely foot the bill for the transfer fee, with his new club paying his wages.
Toronto FC are understood to be ahead of New York Red Bulls and Portland Timbers in the race to sign Altidore, although they would need to offload ex-England striker Jermain Defoe this month.
But with Defoe back on these shores and training with former club Tottenham, sources close to Toronto have indicated that the 32-year-old is likely to depart during the current window.
Toronto head coach Greg Vanney has confirmed his interest in Altidore, whose form in a USA shirt has been a stark contrast to his goal return for Sunderland over the last year-and-a-half.
“We’ll see what happens,” said Vanney.
“We’ll throw our hat in the ring.
“He knows the league. He knows North American soccer.
“He has experience internationally and he’s a big, strong forward. I think he can score goals in this league.”