Luiz Felipe Scolari highlighted a major soccer story Tuesday when he confirmed that Julio Cesar is heading to Tornto FC.
Cesar, Brazil’s starting goalkeeper, will join Major League Soccer’s Toronto on loan from Championship (English second division) club Queens Park Rangers before the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Rumors of Cesar’s potential move to Toronto first arose last week, and neither club has commented on it.
But during a Tuesday press conference to announce Brazil’s squad for its March 5 exhibition at South Africa, Brazil head coach Scoari told the media that Cesar is close to completing the Toronto move, according to MLSSoccer.com.
“Júlio has been called up, and he must report to his new club, Toronto,” Scolari said. “He must finalize all the legal documentation and will be in excellent condition. He does not have any [health] problems.”
Cesar, 34, has yet to play a league game for QPR this season, as Robert Green is manager Harry Redknapp’s first-choice goalkeeper. Cesar is one of a number of high-paid players QPR has been trying to sell since it was relegated from the Premier League last season.
Cesar has been a rumored target of Arsenal, Italian clubs Fiorentina and Napoli, as well as Brazilian clubs Internacional and Sao Paulo, but none of those moves ever came to fruition.
Cesar hasn’t played a competitive game since a Jan. 4 loss to Everton, and there are genuine concerns that he’ll be short of sharpness and confidence as the World Cup approaches.
Scolari believes the spell in the North American top-flight will be adequate preparation for the experienced Cesar.
“If he plays 10 or 15 games before the World Cup, that’s good for us,” Scolari said. “He has this quality of having great reflexes, even if he’s not been playing for a while.”
Brazil national team technical director Carlos Albert Parreria doesn’t believe that the level of play in MLS isn’t high enough for a player of Cesar’s caliber.
“[MLS] is not one of the best in the world technically, but without a doubt it has improved a lot with the arriving of big stars arriving and something very important, it is highly competitive,” Pareirra said. “It was very important for us that Júlio César moved to a very competitive league.”
Toronto kicks off its 2014 MLS campaign on March 15 when it visits the Seattle Sounders. TFC will play a total of seven league games before the World Cup squads are expected to be announced in mid-May.
Toronto head coach Ryan Nelsen was Cesar’s teammate at QPR during the 2012-13 season. Toronto’s incumbent starter, Joe Bendik, assumes that Nelsen will select Cesar in the early months of the season (barring injury).
A hit to my pride today but luckily I've got shit tons of it! Going to take in everything I can from a top shelf gk to better my abilities.—
Joe Bendik (@Jtbendik) February 08, 2014
Cesar is vastly experienced, having played over 300 games for Italian giant Inter Milan and 77 times for Brazil. Cesar’s resume boasts of five Serie A (Italian first division), three Coppa Italia (Italian Cup), one UEFA Champions League and one FIFA Club World Cup titles during his club career, and one Copa America and two FIFA Confederations Cup crowns.
Cesar has previously played at World Cups in 2006 and 2010. Cesar was the starter on Brazil’s 2010 team, which lost to the Netherlands in the quarterfinals.
The duration of Cesar’s loan is unknown at this point, but the timing — just a few months before the World Cup — represents a gamble on his part and that of Scolari and Parreria, who publicly endorsed it. Brazil hosts the World Cup this year, and the country is expecting nothing less than victory. The three leave themselves open to heavy criticism, should Cesar make a high-profile error which leads to Brazil’s failure to win the World Cup.
Toronto has already signed Michael Bradley and Jermaine Defoe this offseason, and Cesar’s loan will attract even more of the world’s eyeballs, as fans of the national teams of the United States, England and now Brazil will be monitoring the trio’s progress in the weeks leading up to squad-selection day.
Photo via Facebook/Julio Cesar-QPR