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Toronto FC turns down transfer bids for Defoe but questions remain about his future

Toronto FC striker Jermain Defoe takes part in practice in Vancouver on Tuesday, May 13, 2014. English clubs are reportedly lining up to sign unsettled Toronto FC striker Defoe.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

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Toronto FC striker Jermain Defoe takes part in practice in Vancouver on Tuesday, May 13, 2014. English clubs are reportedly lining up to sign unsettled Toronto FC striker Defoe.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

TORONTO - Jermain Defoe is staying put with Toronto FC after the MLS team turned down several transfer offers, including a club-record bid, for the England striker.

But questions remain whether Defoe wants to continue in a Toronto uniform.

General manager Tim Bezbatchenko, who spoke to Defoe earlier in the day, told reporters in a conference call Monday that his star forward wanted to remain in Toronto.

"He's committed," he said.

But Queens Park Rangers manager Harry Redknapp told a different story.

"We made a big effort to get Jermain Defoe back but couldn't quite manage to get a deal to bring him back from Toronto," Redknapp told BBC 5 Live. "He wanted to come home but there was no way that they would release him before the playoffs."

Defoe played under Redknapp at Tottenham and Portsmouth.

Stan Collymore, a former player turned soccer pundit in England, tweeted Redknapp as saying "Almost certain Defoe will come in January."

Bezbatchenko declined to say who the interested clubs were, saying only there was more than one. But he said the top bid was a near-record amount for MLS as well.

"I want everyone to know there was a lot of money on the table," he said. "It's a serious business but we have a commitment to our fans and we decided to turn it down."

In addition to QPR, Defoe was linked to Arsenal, Leicester City, Newcastle and Hull City by English media as the transfer window inched towards closing at 6 p.m. ET Monday.

European transfer deals come in two parts, with the clubs striking an agreement and the player coming to personal contrast terms with his new team. Asked if the Defoe camp had held such discussions with any of the suitors, Bezbatchenko referred the question to the player's representatives.

The striker is currently in England dealing with a groin injury. There is no timeline on his return to action, although Bezbatchenko said a decision will be made in the coming weeks whether Defoe requires surgery. That would likely put him out until the start of October.

"We love having Jermain here. Jermain's integral to what we're doing," Bezbatchenko said.

"We need Jermain, we want Jermain here. He's going to help us win games," he added.

The uncertainty over Defoe's future came on the heels of Toronto (9-9-6) firing manager Ryan Nelsen and five members of his coaching staff Sunday. Bezbatchenko said he made the move because the team had won just three of its last 13 games (3-5-5) and the players were showing few signs of life on the field.

Defoe has missed four of the last five games through injury.

Bezbatchenko, who fired manager Ryan Nelsen and five assistant coaches on Sunday, said it was impossible to replace Defoe.

"We're excited about what we can do the rest of this year and want to deliver on our promise on making the playoffs," Bezbatchenko said.

But he also told reporters that the franchise "wouldn't be doing proper service to the club if we didn't examine the offer and explore our options to improve Toronto FC."

On Sunday, Bezbatchenko had confirmed that there was a transfer offer on the table after another source told The Canadian Press that Defoe, upset at the direction of the club, wanted out.

Sky Sports reported that Premier League clubs had spent more than 800 million pounds (US$1.33 billion) during the summer transfer window. But Defoe did not figure in the final day of the spending spree.

In linking Defoe to Leicester, the Daily Telegraph said the forward would have to lower his demands of 90,000 pounds (US$149,475) a week. Defoe is making US$6.18 million this season (US$118,845 a week), according to salary figures posted by the MLS Players' Union.

The Telegraph reported Defoe had been told by Toronto he can leave on loan until January and then try to arrange a permanent move.

A new transfer window opens in January.

Asked if Defoe would be back here next season, Bezbatchenko said the player was on a multiyear contract. But he had no assurances, saying there would be more bids that would have to be reviewed.

"In the off-season, again people will make offers. They always do. We'll go through this process where we take in all the information at the time."

Asked if Defoe wanted to be back with Toronto in 2015, Bezbatchenko said: "As far as I know, he does."

The GM did say that Defoe had been frustrated with his injuries and the team's form.

Defoe signed with Toronto in January in what the MLS side billed as a "bloody big deal." When healthy, he has proved he can be a predator in the North American league with 11 goals in 16 games.

Bezbatchenko said he did not get any new offers for any of his other players Monday.

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