From the moment rumors began to swirl linking Lorenzo Insigne to MLS, a question has arisen in everyone’s mind: what does all this mean?
This is how things work in MLS, where every big signature has to mean something. It is a league which in many ways continues to define itself and is constantly evaluating and reassessing its place in world football.
Now, rumors are no longer rumors. Insigne’s move to Toronto was confirmed on Saturday and he will officially join the club this summer when his contract with Napoli expires, leaving his childhood club to travel to Canada at the age of 30. Insignia comes to MLS in one of the most expensive and ambitious moves in league history.
But even though the Napoli superstar’s transfer to Toronto FC is finalized, that big initial question remains.
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The movement itself is unprecedented in MLS history. He is an international player at the peak of his abilities and playing at the highest level in Europe.
It’s not David Beckham, David Villa, Wayne Rooney or Zlatan Ibrahimovic who come to MLS early in their careers. It’s not Sebastian Giovinco who comes to MLS after failing to really break through at the elite level. And it’s not Miguel Almiron who came to North America in the years leading up to his breakthrough.
Insigne is a player who could realistically play for almost any club in Europe and still give many good years to a team looking to win the Champions League. He is a legitimate Italian international who made his debut at Euro 2020 last summer. He placed seventh in Serie A with 19 goals last season, an extremely impressive result considering he plays wide.
It’s a level of play that MLS has never seen and, one way or another, Toronto FC has succeeded.
The elephant in the room is the money involved, which is absolutely stunning. Insigne’s salary will be around $ 13 million per year, making him by far the highest paid player in MLS history. That salary is astronomical, even by world football standards, and is more than what several MLS teams pay for all of their teams.
Insigne therefore has 13 million reasons to settle in Canada, but the anonymity and comfort of playing in MLS may have also been a factor in his decision to make the switch. He might also just appreciate the fact that he is clearly wanted, that a club are willing to invest so much in him as a player and as a person.
And there’s also the allure of taking on a challenge away from Napoli, the only club he’s ever called home.
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The Toronto FC motive, however, is a little less obvious. Insigne is not a Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo character. He’s not even a Rooney or a Villa, a household name that will capture the imagination and the eyes of the casual fan. Despite all its success, Insigne is still far from being a big star in terms of notoriety outside of Italy.
Instead, it’s what has driven the Toronto FC club forward over the past decade. This movement is about one thing: ambition.
TFC are the club that brought Giovinco to MLS in its heyday, giving the league one of the most electrifying stars in its short history. This is the club that signed two stars of the United States Men’s National Team, Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore, for big-ticket deals. It was also the club that offered us the signing “Bloody Big Deal” of Jermain Defoe, a transfer that did not work out at the time but showed the limits that could be pushed by a team that had the imagination and the desire to do. so.
This is what Insigne’s arrival in Toronto means, a club that has defined itself by its desire to push the boundaries. This is an opportunity for the club to prove that it can attract the best talent, reaffirm itself among the best clubs in North America and, ultimately, as a player in the global soccer market.
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It also presents an opportunity for Toronto to return to the top of MLS on the pitch. A lot of times things are taken with an eye off the pitch when it comes to those big moves. “How many jerseys will they sell? “” What are the subscription numbers? “” Are more fans listening? “
But, believe it or not, some teams really want to win, and Toronto has always been one of those clubs. Their roster is still taking shape under the guidance of new head coach Bob Bradley, but with Insigne joining a squad that is also expected to include former MLS MVP candidate Alejandro Pozuelo, it’s easy to imagine Toronto’s attack being. among the most dynamic in the league.
There are still question marks, mostly around the future of Altidore and Yeferson Soteldo, but TFC is certainly able to figure it all out in a way that pushes them all the way to the top of the MLS chart.
So what does all this mean? Insigne’s decision could turn out to be an aberration, a simple case of a player being courted by a lot of money and big promises to try something different.
It could turn out to be an isolated case, just a man making a decision that was best for him and his family, rather than setting off a tidal wave of European talent heading to the Atlantic in the years to come.
But we do not discover it without being daring. You don’t change perceptions without a little ambition. To really make a difference, sometimes you have to take a risk and see what happens.
Both Toronto FC and Insignia are attempting the move. As to what that will mean in five, 10, or 15 years, well, guess what.