Confident Italian star Lorenzo Insigne vows to lead Toronto FC to championships

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As Lorenzo Insigne’s first press conference in Toronto wound down on Monday, the moderator announced that she would take one more question, and pointed to someone sitting in the audience.

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Insigne’s young son took hold of the microphone and said: “Daddy, I love you!”

Very cute. But it begs the question: How deeply will the Toronto FC fan base fall in love TFC’s new star left winger over the next few years? The hope in the front office is — an awful lot.

The Reds signed the former Napoli and Italian national team captain to a four-year deal said to be worth $45 million — an MLS record. For that kind of money, there’s a ton of pressure on the club, and on Insigne, to deliver championships.

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The Reds have struggled the past couple of seasons, though they are coming off two straight victories, so Insigne may be joining Toronto at the right time. The 31-year-old Napoli legend was full of good cheer in his first presser in T.O. on Monday, though he subtly scoffed at the suggestion he will be under more pressure than he can handle at TFC.

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“I played for 10 years with Napoli and with the Italian national team, I won the Euro Cup, so I don’t have any problem with pressure,” Insigne said through an interpreter. “I’ll have my actions speak for me on the pitch.”

TFC coach and sporting director Bob Bradley said Insigne will likely start training with the team on July 1 and his first match for TFC will probably be July 9, when the Reds host San Jose.

Chatting with Bradley following the news conference, you could tell the veteran coach is champing at the bit to get the club’s prize acquisition on the field.

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“When the ball comes to his feet, the game comes to life,” said Bradley, in describing Insigne’s game. “He’s quick, he’s dynamic, he’s got a great eye for passes when he gets around the goal. He’s an excellent finisher. He’s a player who has skill and personality and that’s exciting for everyone. We’ll find a good balance, we’ve worked hard all year to develop football ideas. And having him in the middle of it all will be so important to the way we continue to grow.”

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In 11 seasons with Napoli, the 31-year-old Insigne made 417 appearances, scored 114 goals and 95 assists across all competitions. His natural position is left wing, but he can also play as a striker and at left-midfield, giving Bradley a number of options.

“I just really love playing and, of course, left wing is my natural role, but whatever the coach chooses, I’m happy,” said Insigne.
“I don’t have the physical abilities to be a goalie,” he added, with a laugh. “But I just love the game and I love playing. So I just want to be there for the team.”

In 54 games with Italy, Insigne scored 10 goals, and was a leader on the field.

“He’s a team guy,” said Bradley, who brought Insigne into the TFC locker room following Toronto’s 2-1 victory over Atlanta United on Saturday night. “He’s a great personality, you could tell as soon as he walked in the locker room the other day that’s he’s just got a great way with the group and that will shine right through.”

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Manning said signing Insigne has raised the profile of TFC worldwide to a level never reached before, hopefully making it easier to sign solid international players in the future. Indeed, also joining TFC in the next few days will be Genoa left back Domenico Criscito. TFC has yet to announce that deal, but is all but done. The 35-year-old left-back has played on Italy’s national teams since 2003 (starting with the U17 squad).

“We’re seeing interest in our club from abroad in some ways like we’ve never seen before,” said Manning, who was the architect of the Insigne deal. “And that’s with agents, with players and other clubs. This is a player who was a European champion less than a year ago, a big player in Italy, played on many Champions League teams.

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“We’ve had a number of very good players sign with this club, but no one of his magnitude,” Manning continued. “So when you do that, it raises your profile. We have a lot of ambition, our club, and we’re looking over these next four-to-five years for Lorenzo to be a foundational piece. And we’ll make sure that we put good players around him and I think we have the right coach (in Bradley). I think the best is in front of us right now.

“He’s a star. I think he said the right things: He’s going to let his play back it up,” the TFC prez continued. “But you can see there’s a charisma, there’s a personality there. I think our fans are going to love him.”


Toronto FC will make a voyage out west in an attempt to win the club’s record eighth Voyageurs Cup. The 2022 Canadian Championship final will be held on July 26 at BC Place in Vancouver between TFC and the Whitecaps. It will mark the fifth time the two Canadian MLS clubs will meet in the final round. The winner will received the Voyageurs Cup and a trip to next year’s Concacaf Champions League.


TFC midfielder Jonathan Osorio has been named to MLS Team of the Week — his second such honour this season. The Brampton native scored in the eighth minute on Saturday night to stake TFC to a 1-0 lead over Atlanta United. Ralph Priso scored the winner in the second half to give the Reds a 2-1 victory.

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