Is Lorenzo Insigne’s move to Toronto FC a big-money aberration or the dawn of a new era for MLS?

From the moment rumors began to surface linking Lorenzo Insigne to MLS, there has been one question on everyone’s mind: what does this all mean?

That’s the way things work in MLS, where every great signing has to mean something. It is a league that, in many ways, is still constantly defining and evaluating and reassessing its place in world football.

Now, rumors are no longer rumors. Insigne’s move to Toronto was confirmed on Saturday and he will officially join the club this summer when he expires his contract with Napoli, leaving his childhood club to travel to Canada at the age of 30. Insigne is coming to MLS in one of the most expensive and ambitious moves in league history.

But even as the Napoli’s superstar move to Toronto FC wraps up, that big initial question still lingers.

The move itself is unheard of in MLS history. This is an international player at the peak of his powers and playing at the highest level in Europe.

These aren’t David Beckham, David Villa, Wayne Rooney or Zlatan Ibrahimovic coming to MLS when their career downturns began. This is not Sebastian Giovinco coming to MLS after failing to make a real breakthrough at the elite level. And this is not Miguel Almiron coming to North America in the years before his big break.

Insigne is a player who could realistically play for almost any club in Europe and still give many good years to a team struggling to win the Champions League. He is a legitimate international from Italy who started at Euro 2020 last summer. He ranked seventh in Serie A with 19 goals last season, an extremely impressive run considering the fact that he plays on broadband.

This is a level of player that MLS has never seen, and somehow Toronto FC pulled it off.

The elephant in the room is the money involved, which is absolutely amazing. Insigne’s salary will be approximately $ 13 million per year, making him by far the highest paid player in MLS history. That salary is astronomical even by world soccer standards, and it’s more than various MLS teams pay for their entire rosters.

Insigne, then, has 13 million reasons for settling in Canada, but anonymity and the comfort of playing in MLS may also have been a factor in his decision to switch. He might also just appreciate the fact that they clearly want him, that a club is willing to invest in him as much as a player and as a person.

And there’s also the appeal of taking on a challenge away from Napoli, the only club he’s called home.

Toronto FC’s motive, however, is a little less obvious. Insigne is not a figure like Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo. He’s not even a Rooney or a Villa, a household name that will capture the imagination and eyes of the casual fan. Despite all his success, Insigne is still far from a big star when it comes to recognition outside of Italy.

Instead, it all comes down to what has powered the Toronto FC club for the past decade. This movement is about one thing: ambition.

TFC is the club that brought Giovinco to MLS in his prime, giving the league one of the most electrifying stars in its short history. This is the club that signed Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore, two stars of the US men’s national team, on big-money deals. This is also the club that gave us the “Bloody Big Deal” signing of Jermain Defoe, a transfer that did not work at the time, but which showed the limits that a team that had the imagination and the desire to overcome could overcome. then.

That’s what the arrival of Insigne in Toronto means, a club that has been defined by its desire to push boundaries. This is the opportunity for the club to show that it can attract top talent, assert itself among the top clubs in North America, and ultimately as a player in the global soccer market.

It also presents an opportunity for Toronto to return to the top of MLS on the field. Very often things are put into a lens off the field when it comes to these big moves. “How many shirts will they sell?” “What are the season ticket numbers?” “Are there more fans tuning in?”

But believe it or not, some teams really want to win, and Toronto has always proven to be one of those clubs. His roster is still taking shape under new head coach Bob Bradley, but with Insigne joining a team that should also feature former MLS MVP candidate Alejandro Pozuelo, it’s easy to imagine that Toronto’s attack will be find yourself among the most dynamic in the league.

There are still question marks, mainly around the future of Altidore and Yeferson Soteldo, but TFC is certainly capable of solving it all in a way that pushes them back to the top of the MLS table.

So what does this all mean? Insigne’s move could turn out to be an aberration, a simple case of a gamer lured by big money and big promises to try something different.

This could be an isolated case, just one man making the best decision for himself and his family, rather than starting a wave of European talent crossing the Atlantic for years to come.

But that is not discovered without being bold. You don’t change perceptions without a bit of ambition. To really change things, sometimes you have to take a risk and see what happens.

Both Toronto FC and Insigne are taking a chance on this move. As for what that will mean five, 10 or 15 years from now: well, that’s anyone’s guess.