On December 12th, 2019, Toronto FC announced that they had signed captain Michael Bradley to a new contract. The 32-year-old joined the club 6 years ago as a designated player. However, his new contract was signed using targeted allocation money which means a designated player spot is up for grabs at TFC.

Targeted allocation money (TAM) was introduced by the MLS to help clubs to attract or keep players who could make an instant impact. Currently, each team receives a set amount of $1.2 million a season. In order to use TAM to free up a designated player spot, a team has to use that money to “buy down” the player’s salary. Doing so would bring them under the designated player threshold of $480,625. In addition to that, the club must also sign a designated player that is of equal or greater value to the player he replaces.

Essentially that means TFC needs to sign a designated player before the season starts. While many fans have been calling for the club to sign Brescia’s Mario Balotelli, there’s a different option.

I’d like to see them make a push for Napoli’s Dries Mertens.

The case for Dries Mertens at TFC

Since arriving in Napoli in 2013, the Belgian has currently scored 118 goals for the club, surpassing Maradona’s record. Under coach Maurizio Sarri, Mertens transitioned into a false-nine role from the winger position. The pacey, technically gifted forward would work well with TFC striker Jozy Altidore. The two could work in a similar fashion to former red Sebastiano Giovinco. Altidore’s physicality enables him to hold up play which would create space for Mertens to make runs into the box. Also a gifted passer, Mertens would undoubtedly be able to provide quality service to the USMT striker.

Mertens, who turns 33 this year, has an expiring contract with the Neapolitan outfit. According to reports, owner Aurelio De Laurentiis is reluctant to meet the Belgian’s salary demands. Mertens is reportedly looking to increase his salary to 5 million euros, which is roughly $5.5 million USD. That’s comparable to the amount Bradley was making while occupying the designated player spot.

Despite Mertens being linked to other teams, TFC would be remiss to let this opportunity pass.