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Toronto FC Signs Italy Star Lorenzo Insigne in MLS-Record Deal

Bob Bradley's first marquee signing as sporting director and head coach of Toronto FC is one of the biggest and priciest in MLS history.

Lorenzo Insigne, the longtime Napoli star and club captain and Italian Euro 2020 winner, has agreed to join Toronto as the centerpiece of the club's attempt to return to glory in MLS, and he'll arrive in the summer, following the conclusion of Napoli's season. Insigne is signed on a four-year deal starting July 1, 2022, with a reported salary of $15 million per year, which would easily make him MLS's highest annual earner ever. Zlatan Ibrahimović had previously carried that distinction with a $7.2 million annual salary during his last season with the LA Galaxy.

Toronto is no stranger to paying big for stars, though, with Sebastian Giovinco's $7.1 million compensation in 2017 and 2018 pacing a group of big earners in recent years that has included Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, Alejandro Pozuelo and Jermain Defoe. TFC will hope that Insigne can make the same impact his countryman Giovinco did when he won MLS MVP in 2015 and helped the club reach the MLS Cup final in 2016, win it all in 2017 and come within a penalty shootout of winning the Concacaf Champions League in 2018. 

“This is a historic and exciting day for our club,” Toronto FC president Bill Manning said in a statement. “Lorenzo is a world-class attacking player in the prime of his career. He was a European champion with Italy and has performed on the biggest stages during his club career with Napoli. Lorenzo has the talent to change games. He plays the game with joy and passion, and our fans and supporters are going to love watching him as a member of our team.” 

Insigne, who will be 31 when he arrives, has a modest four goals in the first half of the Serie A season but is a season removed from a 19-goal campaign in Italy, his best in the top flight in his career. He scored twice for Italy at the Euros—including an eventual match-winner against Belgium in the quarterfinals—and has 10 international goals in his career for the Azzurri. His Napoli contract expires at the end of the season, which is why he's able to pre-arrange his move now and why there is no transfer fee attached to the transaction.

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That doesn't make the financial outlay any less astounding for Toronto, which missed the playoffs in 2021 and mustered just 28 points in 34 matches last season, good for second-worst in the Eastern Conference. 

The expectations will be higher than the CN Tower for Insigne, who will be counted on to deliver trophies and score at a blistering clip to justify his salary. Bob Bradley has experience coaxing just that out of his biggest stars, overseeing Carlos Vela's 34-goal, 15-assist season in 2019, which coincided with LAFC setting (at the time) a single-season points record and securing the MLS Supporters' Shield.

“We are all looking forward to having Lorenzo join us this summer,” Bradley said. “His ability to create chances for himself and his teammates is special. Having watched him for many years, I also know he’s also a player who works for the team. Lorenzo is the kind of player you come to watch, because there’s always a chance, he’ll do something unforgettable.” 

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