Italian star Lorenzo Insigne to join Toronto FC on 4-year contract in July

Toronto FC on Saturday formally announced Italian winger Lorenzo Insigne has signed a pre-contract to join the Major League Soccer club on a four-year deal, effective July 1.

The 30-year-old, who has spent much of his career with Serie A side Napoli, will be added to the roster as a designated player pending receipt of his International Transfer Certificate.

“This is a historic and exciting day for our club,” Toronto FC president Bill Manning said in a news release. “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.”

With Napoli, Insigne scored 114 goals and 95 assists over 416 appearances across all competitions — Serie A, Coppa Italia, Super Cup, UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League.

Insigne won three titles in his 11-year tenure, including Super Cup (2014/2015) and Coppa Italia (2013/2014 and 2019/2020). He served as the club captain since 2019.

“His ability to create chances for himself and his teammates is special,” said Bob Bradley, Toronto FC head coach and sporting director. “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.”

The Napoli signing represents a swing for the fences for a Toronto team looking to return to its winning ways after a dismal 6-18-10 season in 2021.

Club also linked to striker Belotti

Champions in 2017 and runners-up in 2016 and 2019, Toronto finished 26th out of 27 teams last year. The vast majority of the franchise’s season-ticket base opted to forgo what little of the season that was played in Toronto, put off by the pandemic and the team’s woeful on-field performance.

To make room for Insigne, Toronto will have to shed one of its three designated players — with more movement likely needed if Belotti also comes on board. While Spanish playmaker Alejandro Pozuelo, the league’s MVP in 2020, appears committed to staying, U.S. international forward Jozy Altidore and Venezuelan winger Yeferson Soteldo both would seem open to a move.

Insigne debuted for Italy in 2012, started for the Azzurri in their Euro 2020 final win over England and also played for his country at the 2014 World Cup and Euro 2016.

TFC has also been linked with 28-year-old Torino striker Andrea Belotti, another Italian international whose club contract is expiring this summer.

Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which owns Toronto FC, reportedly is digging deep into its well-stocked wallet to get Insigne with a long-term contract that will make him the league’s highest-paid player by quite a distance.

Los Angeles FC forward Carlos Vela led the league last season at $6.3 million US.

MLSE is no stranger to big-ticket items.

Raptors star Pascal Siakam is earning $33 million this season. Maple Leaf forwards Auston Matthews ($10.47 million), Mitch Marner ($10.36 million) and John Tavares ($9.35 million) are making a combined $30.178 million this season.

At five foot four and 130 pounds, Insigne is small but packs a punch. He can play in attack across the field, but is often deployed as a left winger where he can use his speed, ball skills and powerful shot to great effect.

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