LONDON (Reuters) - England striker Jermain Defoe is confident he can secure his place in England’s World Cup squad by scoring goals for new club Toronto FC but said he has nothing to prove.
Defoe, who has agreed to join from Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur, was introduced to fans of the Canadian MLS club on Monday having flown out to be part of a news conference which also featured fellow new signing Michael Bradley.
Some have questioned the timing of Defoe’s move which will see him start with Toronto on February 28, but the 31-year-old says the new challenge will enhance, and not harm, his chances of being part of England’s squad for Brazil.
“I love challenges and I want to feel that fire in my belly,” Defoe said at a raucous reception in a Toronto sports bar where fans chanted “this is your house” to the Londoner.
“For me, the most important thing is getting my boots on and scoring goals which I’ve always done from a young age. I want to show that I can perform outside the Premier League.
“I’m looking forward to the pressure (of scoring goals). I call it a good pressure and I’m looking forward to doing well.”
Defoe has scored 19 goals for England from 55 appearances since 2004, mostly as a substitute, and he said he has nothing to prove to England manager Roy Hodgson.
“I did think about my chances of going to the World Cup (when I signed for Toronto),” Defoe, Tottenham’s fifth highest scorer with 142 goals in all competitions,” said during the press conference broadcast live on Canadian TV.
“I’ve been to a World Cup before and it’s the greatest thing in the world, it’s the reason you play football. It did cross my mind but at the same time I think the MLS will be fantastic for me and it’s important to be playing.
“Hopefully I’ll be on the plane. I’ve played in the Premier League my whole career, scored a lot of goals, and at the age of 31 I would like to think that the England manager knows what I can do and what I bring to the team.”
Defoe will link up with former Tottenham team mate Ryan Nelsen, now coach of Toronto who are aiming high for the new MLS season with a host of new signings.
“When Ryan said let’s go after Defoe we said let’s do it,” Toronto general manager Tim Bezbatchenko said at the news conference. “We are pushing the envelope. We are turning the tide on this club and we want the target on our back. We want to be the team that everyone else is trying to catch.”
Writing by Martyn Herman; editing by Justin Palmer