Toronto FC's Van der Wiel: 'I need to get my pleasure back'

Like Chris Mavinga, who was playing in Russia, and Victor Vazquez in Mexico before their moves to Toronto FC, Gregory van der Wiel believes a change of scenery will do him a lot of good.

Both Mavinga and Vazquez were key additions on TFC's MLS Cup 2017 championship. Now van der Wiel, the former Dutch national team starting right back, is the one new player TFC is counting on for its triple title defenses (MLS Cup, Supporters' Shield and Canadian Championship) and Concacaf Champions League run.

Van der Wiel, who began his career at Ajax (seven seasons) and Paris St. Germain (four seasons), has bounced around to clubs in Turkey (Fenerbahce) and Italy (Cagliari) in the last year and a half and is looking for a new beginning in MLS.

After moving to Turkey in 2016, Van der Wiel was swindled out of $4.5 million. A stomach injury set him back at Fenerbahce.

“My last two years were not the most successful for me, and I lost my pleasure for the game,” he said at his introduction to the Toronto FC media. "In Turkey, I signed for four years [and a] big contract, but after three months I had problems there. The club treated me not well. It was not a good experience for me. Also, my private life was not good. I lost a lot of money there, so I had a very bad experience in Turkey, and I needed to leave Turkey to play football again, to find my pleasure back again, and that’s how I ended up in Cagliari.”

Things weren't much better at Cagliari, where the 30-year-old van der Wiel played only five games. A coaching change followed an injury at the start of the season. But it was more than that for van der Wiel, who was born in Curacao.

“I'm tired [of being] judged by the way I look, the way I live my private life, the pictures I post on Instagram," he said. “I've always been a person who works hard, always had the mentality to be a top player. The last two years I got judged and sidelined by things other than my football qualities. I wanted to be in environment where it was different.”

Van der Wiel said he always wanted to play in MLS.

“I've been many times to this side of the ocean and what I've picked up is that the mentality," he said, "how the people live with their sport, the professionalism, here is way different from Europe. I think on this side it's 10 years ahead.”

Van der Wiel likes what he's seen so far in camp.

“You get treated well," he said. "Everything is well arranged. This is everything I hoped for. I need to get my pleasure back. That will come. I have no doubt.”
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