Monday’s soccer news starts with Toronto FC making their move for Napoli captain and World Cup winner Lorenzo Insigne. After intense speculation linking the player with the club, Toronto announced that Insigne will complete his free transfer to MLS in July. Insigne’s Napoli is currently 3rd in Serie A and plays Barcelona in the Europa League knockout round next month.
“We are all looking forward to having Lorenzo join us this summer,” Toronto coach Bob Bradley said in the press statement announcing the move. “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.”
While Insigne joins on a free transfer, reports have him becoming the highest-paid player in MLS history. He’ll be 31 when he takes the field for Toronto, signing a four-year deal with the club. What this produces from other clubs is the question. Toronto’s revamp is still in process, but they’ve made the kind of statement that will require other teams to seriously consider their strategies.
In an era of selling clubs in MLS, the push/pull with being smart about business decisions and keeping a strong roster on the field is difficult. NYCFC just sent James Sands on an 18-month loan to Rangers and reports have Golden Boot winner Valentin Castellanos a transfer target. That means a revamp for the MLS Cup champions, joining a list of clubs needing to make major and minor moves in advance of the 2022 MLS season.
For Toronto, Insigne becomes an eventual part of their approach. Where they’ll be when he officially joins is the question, dependent in large part on the rest of their revamp. That’s a tricky situation in a tough Eastern Conference. Pandemic travel issues had Toronto playing home games in Florida to start last season, skewing their results. This time around, the expectations start high based on Bob Bradley as coach and sporting director and the eventual arrival of Insigne.
That level of pressure is nothing new in Toronto, adding to the perception that they’re fine setting themselves up as the team with the most to lose. Insigne’s situation may be a rarity considering his availability without a transfer fee but reportedly requiring a record-breaking salary to get the deal done. Still, it becomes another piece played in a hyper-competitive Eastern Conference.
Whether or not a similar response is even possible is beside the point. It extends the pressure Toronto is putting on itself up and down the table. Is what other teams doing going to be enough if the Toronto revival works? Does this type of prestige signing mean other fan bases will expect more from their clubs? Are minor moves in attempts to build on budgets going to satisfy? At what point is the cost of keeping a player worth more than a potential outgoing transfer fee?
All of that means reconsidering options or doubling down on existing plans. Some of those aren’t going to work, adding to the dichotomy in a league easily divided between teams willing and unwilling to spend.
The Toronto Globe and Mail’s Cathal Kelly considers the Insigne signing. The Ringers’ Ryan Hunn looks at what Freiburg is doing in the Bundesliga this season. The NY Times’ Rory Smith previews the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations. Inside World Football’s Samindra Kunti explains the issues the Cup of Nations faces.
TUESDAY’S SOCCER TV
Cup of Nations on beIN Sport: Algeria vs Sierra Leone at 8am, Nigeria vs Egypt at 11am, and Sudan vs Guinea-Bissau at 2pm ET.
All links are provided as a courtesy. US Soccer Players nor its authors are responsible for the content of third-party links or sites. For comments, questions, and concerns please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo by Howard C Smith – ISIPhotos.com