Toronto FC fullback Richie Laryea, who made no secret about wanting to test his skills in Europe, has got his wish.
The 27-year-old from Toronto has been sold to Nottingham Forest, which currently stands ninth in England's second-tier Championship. English reports pegged the transfer fee at US$1 million.
Laryea is Forest's third signing of the January transfer window, following the arrival of Keinan Davis from Aston Villa and Steve Cook from Bournemouth.
"It feels amazing to be here. It's been nothing but positivity since I stepped foot in the building and I hope to keep it that way," Laryea told the club's website. "When you visit the stadium (the 30,445-capacity City Ground), you can see the history straight away. You can see that this is what English football is all about and this is what I've seen growing up as a kid, so it's a great feeling to be here.
"There are a lot of games in the Championship and it's a high-tempo division which excites me."
Founded in 1865, Nottingham Forest's halcyon days were in the late '70s when it won the First Division (then England's top flight) in 1977-78, FA Charity Shield in 1978, League Cup in 1978 and '79, European Cup in 1978-79 and 1979-80 and UEFA Super Cup in 1979 under legendary manager Brian Clough.
Canadian international Jim Brennan played there from 1999 to 2003.
Laryea made 83 appearances across all competitions in three seasons with TFC, recording nine goals and 12 assists. Last season, he made 33 appearances in all competitions with three goals and one assist.
“It has been a pleasure to see Richie blossom here at his hometown club and become a full member of the Canadian national team,” Toronto president Bill Manning said in a statement. “Richie thrilled our fans with his explosive speed, incredible dribbling and commitment to win. We worked closely with Richie and his representation on this transaction as he follows his dream to play in England and wish him all the best as he moves on to Nottingham Forest.”
With veteran Justin Morrow retiring at the end of the 2021 season, Toronto has now lost two of its top three fullbacks. Brazil's Auro remains under contract.
Taken in the first round (seventh overall) in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft from the University of Akron by Orlando City, Laryea played just 21 MLS games (including three starts) before being released after the 2018 season.
Out of work and a pending father, Laryea found a new home after a trial with Toronto during the 2019 pre-season. Toronto coach Greg Vanney converted Laryea from a midfielder to fullback, a move that re-energized his career.
Laryea proved to be a dangerous fullback/wingback able to torment defenders in the opposition half. A fierce competitor, he has also made his mark with Canada with 22 caps, including 20 starts.
"He has a good pedigree having played in the MLS for Toronto and for the Canadian national team and we’re looking forward to seeing how he develops," said Forrest coach Steve Cooper.
“He’s hungry to learn and prove himself in England and he gives us more options in wide positions which is really important."
Laryea was asked about his desire to play abroad at TFC's end-of-season media session in late November.
"I don't really know right now,'' he said. "So I'll see what happens in the next couple of weeks. Obviously I've said it's a dream of mine to play in Europe and I stand by that. But I also love playing for this club and this is my hometown. They gave me a second chance at MLS and all that.
"I guess I'll say I'm open to a lot of different things,'' he added.
Laryea made US$226,950 with Toronto last season.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 8, 2021.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press