Lorenzo Insigne to Toronto FC and the start of “MLS 4.0”

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It still seems unbelievable, but Lorenzo Insigne joins Toronto FC.

That’s right, an integral part of Italy’s European Championship winning team and the captain of one of Serie A’s top players comes to Major League Soccer just 30 years old.

Journalist Fabrizio Romano removed all doubt from the situation by tweeting photos of the outside in a Toronto shirt – and then sent TFC Twitter to melt.

Lorenzo Insigne from Napoli to Toronto FC, here we go and confirm! The deal completely agrees, Lorenzo has accepted Toronto’s bid and he joins as a free agent in July. ??? #TorontoFC @SkySport

The agreement will be signed within this week, according to @DiMarzio. Five and a half year contract confirmed. pic.twitter.com/jUXbDouQF8

– Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) January 4, 2022

For a long time, MLS commissioner Don Garber has been preaching the need for the league to become a major player in the global sales market. It has largely been achieved.

In recent years, home-made players have been sent to Europe for ever-increasing sums – from Alphonso Davies’ arrival at Bayern Munich to, most recently, Ricardo Pepi’s transfer from FC Dallas to FC Augsburg. Tyler Adams, Gianluca Busio, Tanner Tessman and Chris Richards have all taken similar paths.

This is known to many as “MLS 3.0”. The third iteration of the league’s growth after its establishment as “MLS 1.0”, and the arrival of David Beckham heralds the movement of more veteran stars to the league as “MLS 2.0”. Fittingly, Garber also credits the fact that Toronto FC joined MLS 2007 as part of the latter.

So, is this what “MLS 4.0” looks like? Clubs that bring stars from Europe that stand firmly on top of the hill, that do not fall on the wrong side of it?

Well, before we go ahead of ourselves, it is important to note that this is not the first time Toronto has persuaded a star of the Italian national team to join their ranks.

TFC’s capture of Sebastian Giovinco from Juventus in 2015 shocked the wider football community, not least because the little forward was still in his 20s. With an annual salary of $ 7 million, he became the highest paid player in MLS before Orlando City’s Kaka. His impact on the field was transformative, scoring 83 goals in 142 games to lead the TFC to seven silverware, including the 2017 MLS Cup.

But it is only when you stand back and look at how far Toronto has gone to recruit Insigne that the true scope of their ambitions becomes clear.

It was as late as November that a move to Inter looked almost complete, and the reigning Serie A champions were willing to offer Insigne the improved terms that Napoli would not do.

Tottenham Hotspur then emerged as the leading suitor in the Premier League, with sources saying 90min that the London club were willing to offer Insigne close to $ 170,000 a week – an improvement of $ 35,000 compared to the terms offered by Inter. Sources also confirm that Borussia Dortmund had a temporary interest but never came to the table with a real offer.

In December, everything changed. Toronto dropped every other bid for Insigne, dropping $ 13 million a year ($ 250,000 a week) and making it abundantly clear that they were desperate to complete a deal.

It tipped the scales. Sources have confirmed for 90min that other offers from all over Europe would have been likely, but that Insigne was impressed by Toronto’s desire to take him across the Atlantic. The Italian felt wanted and that was enough for him.

Is this the beginning of MLS clubs not only selling talented home grown to the European market and letting the world know they exist, but also taking the gaming stars the other way in their prime, rather than as a shadow of their former selves?

This may not even be the last time Toronto does that stunt this winter, with Torino’s striker and Insigne’s Italian teammate Andrea Belotti also linked to a move – as well as veteran defender Domenico Criscito. The high-ranking Mexican midfielder Carlos Salcedo was able to join the Liga MX giant Tigres, and even liked a post on social media that linked him to Toronto.

A source has told me that Toronto is trying to acquire former RSL and current Tigres CB Carlos Salcedo. The 28-year-old Mexican INTL has not played in MLS since 2014. Soon! pic.twitter.com/VoMY2fr3k6

– Will Forbes (@TransfersMLS) January 5, 2022

For this to really be “MLS 4.0”, it takes more than just Toronto throwing itself around. People like Atlanta United and the Seattle Sounders also need to get involved. The LA Galaxy will continue to taste success with veterans like Chicharito, but even they must be impressed (and a little jealous) of Toronto’s operations.

Ambition can take individual clubs far in MLS. Maybe this time also leads the league into a new era.

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