Interviews

Victor Vazquez: Why Toronto is the perfect fit, and why Iniesta and Xavi would love MLS

Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

The ex-Barcelona man is enjoying the start of his stint with Toronto FC, where life is a little more laid back. FFT caught up with him in the middle of TFC's red-hot run:

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What are your hopes for the season?

Above all, to play as well as I can for Toronto. If that means we can win some trophies, then all the better. What I can say is that we’re going to fight as hard as we can, for as long as we can, to make the fans proud of us. From a personal point of view, I want to play as many games as I can and to show my quality, so MLS fans can say Victor Vazquez is a great signing for Toronto.

It’s a genuine privilege and honor to play with Sebastian. ... Both on and off the pitch, me and Sebastian get on really well and have a great connection when we play.

What were your perceptions of the MLS before you signed for Toronto?

I was already following the league a little bit because last year I was in Mexico, playing for Cruz Azul. Being quite close, geographically, to the league meant that I followed it a lot more closely than I did when I was playing in Spain or Belgium. Even from Mexico, I saw a very competitive league, one in which there are no obvious favorites.

Any team can win MLS, and put a good run together like we managed at Toronto at the beginning of the season, but at the same time any team can beat anyone. There are no bad teams in this league. I’ve joined part of this adventure because Toronto came in for me two-and-a-half years ago when I was still at Club Brugge and we weren’t able to get the deal done because I was playing well and was happy there. Then, they offered me a chance to come, I wasn’t very happy in Mexico, so I accepted. To be honest, since I’ve arrived here, I’ve been welcomed with open arms and I’m very grateful to everyone at the club for that.

You’ve played for Barcelona and Sebastian Giovinco for Juventus. What experience does that bring to the squad?

It’s a genuine privilege and honor to play with Sebastian. Perhaps it’s the same for some of the rest of the squad, too, because they know I’ve played for Barcelona and that I’m used to a type of football, like Sebastian, that they haven’t played before.

Both on and off the pitch, me and Sebastian get on really well and have a great connection when we play. We understand exactly where each other is going to be. If I do my job, and he does his, then we’ll score goals and that will make the whole team’s job much easier. We want to maintain our good start because that way we’ll do the best we can for the team and achieve good things for Toronto.

You’re both playmakers. How does that work in the same team?

That’s true. We’re different types of players, but play in a similar role in the spaces we occupy and the sort of football we like to play. We want to see a lot of the ball, create chances and look for space to score goals. We’ve got a great team here; it’s easy to be on the same wavelength as someone like Michael Bradley, for example, because he’s a very experienced player and understands the game very well. Toronto have a lot of good players and things are going very well for us.

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

How is the culture different here, compared to Europe?

There’s no doubt it’s different. In Barcelona, football is everything. If people didn’t have football, I don’t know what they’d do because they spend the whole week talking about the upcoming game and preparing for what they’re going to do, then analyze it. In Mexico it’s similar. Although Cruz Azul are going through a really tough period, the fans never stop talking about or supporting the club.

At Toronto, things are a little cooler. People don’t live for football in the same way as they do in Europe yet, but every year you can see more fans coming to games, enjoying the spectacle and getting into the sport. Clearly in Canada it’s more about ice hockey and the NBA, so it’s not easy, but game by game, you can see fans become ever more proud of us and the team of representing their city. It’s great to be a part of that.

Do you feel less pressure here?

Yes, definitely. This is something I’ve already talked about with my teammates. Maybe not necessarily pressure, but people certainly recognize you less when you’re walking down the street. Usually they just say, ‘hi’ and occasionally ask for a photo or an autograph, which is fine. I don’t know whether they’re a little shier. That change has been brilliant for me and my family because we can live a very calm, normal life.

I’d like to see someone like Andres Iniesta or maybe Xavi come here. I’d like that and I think they would, too.

What’s surprised you in Toronto?

A lot of things. The facilities at the training ground are fantastic, which makes your daily life so much easier. Toronto is a great city, too, and we’re really enjoying getting to know it. The welcome we’ve received is amazing and everyone here has done so much to help us settle in.

Obviously, adjusting to cold is a bit of a challenge, but that’s better than the rain you get in some places! It’s a fantastic experience for the whole family and my son, especially. He’s loving learning English and living in a city as cosmopolitan as Toronto is fantastic.

Which player from Europe would you like to see come to the MLS?

Oof, wow, that’s a tough one! Mate, I have to say Messi, because he’s a good friend, but I think that’s virtually impossible to happen. In the future, I’d like to see someone like Andres Iniesta or maybe Xavi come here. I’d like that and I think they would, too.

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