Former Toronto FC star midfielder Victor Vazquez returned to Major League Soccer on Wednesday, reunited with head coach Greg Vanney — this time in Los Angeles Galaxy colours.
The 34-year-old Spaniard spent the 2017 and 2018 seasons with Toronto under Vanney, playing a key role in TFC's treble in 2017 when it won the Canadian Championship, Supporters' Shield and MLS Cup.
Vazquez signed a one-year contract with the Galaxy, with a one-year option.
"I like everything about him," Vanney told a virtual media call. "Arguably he's one of the most intelligent soccer players that I've ever been around. His ability to organize the game, understand what the game needs, his vision for the final pass.
"His leadership within our group, I think, is going to be really important as we establish the culture and a vision moving forward. And his technical ability is off the charts. But he processes the game in his mind as fast as anyone I've ever seen."
Vanney believes Vazquez will help Mexican star forward Javier (Chicharito) Hernandez unlock defences.
TFC players and fans are well aware of Vazquez's vision and passing touch.
"His brain ticks a little bit faster than the normal brain, especially on the pitch. It's amazing to watch," Toronto midfielder Jonathan Osorio said in 2019.
Vanney said there is no timeline for Vazquez to join training, given visa and quarantine demands. The hope is he will arrive in Los Angeles early next week.
Asked if Toronto had any discussions with Vazquez about a possible return, TFC GM Ali Curtis was diplomatic.
"Victor and the club have had a good relationship since he departed. There have been friendly talks with him over the last couple years," Curtis said in a text Wednesday to The Canadian Press.
Vazquez, who scored the insurance 94th-minute goal in the 2-0 win over Seattle in the 2017 MLS Cup, scored 18 goals and added 26 assists in 57 regular-season and playoff games for Toronto.
He was named to the MLS Best XI in 2017.
Vazquez made US$1.5 million in 2018 with Toronto, fourth on the team payroll behind Sebastian Giovinco, captain Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore. He was slowed by a variety of ailments that year, restricted to 21 league appearances (19 starts). The club eventually shut him down with three games remaining to undergo arthroscopic knee surgery.
Vazquez has had chronic knee problems in his career, but was also dogged by a nerve issue and a sore back in his last year with Toronto.
He left the club in January 2019 to join Qatar's Al Arabi SC on a lucrative deal. Most recently he was with Belgium's K.A.S. Eupen.
"He hasn't played a ton during the pandemic and during all of this time," Vanney said. "So I think he feels as fresh as he ever has during his career ... I think there's a lot left in him and I think he's super-eager to get on the field and compete again."
"I'm not concerned one bit about his age or any of that stuff," he added. "It's his mind that's fits into our team, that's going to make such a big difference."
Prior to joining MLS, the Spaniard played in 2016 for Liga MX club Cruz Azul, where he made 23 appearances, scoring one goal with one assist.
Vazquez was 11 when he joined the storied Barcelona youth system in 1997. He worked his way up and made a handful of appearances with the first team before his career was derailed by a serious knee injury in 2009.
He made it back after a long rehab and scored for Barca, but there seemed little future for him at the star-studded club. He found a home at Club Brugge in 2011, earning league player of the year honours in the 2014-15 season.
A 2016 move to Cruz Azul in Mexico was unsuccessful, with his family unhappy in Mexico City. Toronto made him an offer and, by all accounts, he enjoyed his time here.
Other Galaxy additions ahead of the 2021 season include goalkeeper Jonathan Bond (West Bromwich Albion), defender Derrick Williams (Blackburn Rovers), Marcus Ferkranus (L.A. Galaxy Aacademy), Oniel Fisher (free agent), Jorge Villafana (Portland Timbers) and Jalen Neal (L.A. Galaxy Academy), midfielders Samuel Grandsir (AS Monaco), Carlos Harvey (Tauro FC) and Adam Saldana (L.A. Galaxy Academy).
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 17, 2021
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press