Ladies and gentlemen... he is coming after all!
After initial reports from our very own Michael Singh, Toronto FC fans were eagerly anticipating the official announcement, but they can now let out a collective sigh of relief. Lorenzo Insigne will be a Red!
With the arrival of Insigne, supporters can look forward to next season with a renewed sense of optimism after a bleak 2021 campaign. Though it may be naive to think a new head coach and one new attacker can change the trajectory of a club, this is exactly the type of signing Insigne could be for Toronto. This is not just one of the biggest signings in TFC history, but in the collected history of Major League Soccer.
Lorenzo Insigne is a man who does not need much of an introduction. He is a name even casual soccer fans will know due to his experience with club side Napoli, and the Italian national team. But without further ado, let’s get into what TFC fans can expect from the Neapolitan when he comes across the pond this summer.
- Name: Lorenzo Insigne
- Date of birth: June 4, 1991
- Place of birth: Naples, Italy
- Height: 5’3”
- Position: Left Winger
- Foot: Right
- Current team/league: Napoli/Serie A
Lorenzo Insigne is Naples through and through. Barring loan spells early on in his professional career, Insigne has been at SSC Napoli since he joined their youth ranks in 2006. After making his Serie A debut in 2010, Insigne has gone on to make 417 appearances with Napoli, good for fourth all-time in the club’s history. Along the way he has won a Supercoppa and two Coppa Italias. With 114 goals, Insigne is one goal shy of equalling the late great Diego Maradona’s tally for Napoli.
Insigne can be thought of as the “face of the club” and has been one of the first names on the team sheet for almost a decade, no matter who the manager in charge has been. Nicknamed Lorenzo il Magnifico, he is definitely a fan favourite in the south of Italy as he gives his all on the pitch and represents his hometown proudly. He was rewarded for his commitment to the Partenopei when he was named club captain in 2019 following the departure of another Napoli legend, Marek Hamšík.
For the Italian senior side, Insigne has managed 10 goals in 53 appearances. He made his international debut in 2012 and has featured at the 2016 and 2020 Euros, as well as the 2014 World Cup. Insigne was controversially left on the bench by former Italy boss Gian Piero Ventura during their infamous goalless draw to Sweden in 2017 at the San Siro, a result which saw them miss the 2018 World Cup.
At 30 years of age, Insigne remains an important figure for Roberto Mancini’s Italy. He was a key contributor during his nation’s recent 2020 Euros triumph, scoring twice at the tournament and starting six of Italy’s seven matches, including the final. He has also recorded three assists in six appearances during Italy’s current World Cup qualification campaign, as the Azzurri seek to exorcise their demons from 2017.
At 5 feet 3 inches tall, Insigne is another diminutive attacker set to join TFC, following in the footsteps of Sebastian Giovinco and Yeferson Soteldo, who have come before him. Like these other players, Insigne has had to learn how to use his small stature to his advantage, using feints, quick turns, and changes of pace to throw off defenders.
For both club and country, Insigne has played most of his career as the left winger in a 4-3-3, or 4-2-3-1 formation. Insigne has been asked to play as a secondary striker at times, but he is definitely most familiar with playing on the wing.
New Toronto FC Manager Bob Bradley extensively used the 4-3-3 in his last job with Los Angeles FC, so utilizing Insigne on the left of this formation should be a no-brainer when he arrives in Toronto. What Bob Bradley will have to decide on, is who plays alongside Insigne up top. This obviously depends on who TFC is able to sign during the offseason, with rumours circulating around Andrea Belotti, and a Giovinco return.
Sitting at fourth all-time for assists in Serie A, creating chances for others is a huge part of Insigne’s game. The linkup play between he and the starting striker will be pivotal to Toronto’s attack. Check out the clip below for an example of Insigne’s passing ability, as he gets the “hockey assist” for Dries Mertens’ goal against Juventus earlier this month.
From the left, Insigne plays as an inverted winger. Simply put, rather than advancing up the field out wide, Insigne typically cuts inside to shoot or find a pass. When cutting in, Insigne is renowned for his curling efforts on goal (known as a tiraggiro in Naples). Think of Arjen Robben’s signature goal, but coming from the left side rather than the right.
'— Toronto FC (@TorontoFC) January 7, 2022
. . ( .) - Nel calcio, il tiro a giro, fatto colpendo il pallone in modo da imprimergli un forte effetto a rientrare. Adattamento del napoletano parlato .
(h/t https://t.co/zAGmfzK6F7) pic.twitter.com/Ff1pqN5bvm
So many of Insigne’s goals come from this type of shot. It has become a predictable finish, yet so difficult for defenders and goalkeepers to stop due to the level of technical skill il Magnifico possesses. You can see a prime example of this down below with his goal against Lazio last season.
Speaking of skill, Insigne has a prowess of scoring free kicks, especially when the ball is placed on the left side of the pitch. His curler is perfect for dead ball opportunities as he is able to direct the ball just out of the reach of the goalkeeper. Having such a talent behind the ball for set piece opportunities will be massive for TFC, and might remind fans of another Italian free kick wizard who used to wear red. The goal below against Roma from last season is a splendid example of Insigne’s ability as he took on the shot from distance, perfectly slotting the ball where no keeper could get to it.
The signing of Lorenzo Insigne is a real statement of intent from Toronto FC as they try to reclaim their status as an elite club in North America. Of course it’s impossible to predict the future, but it’s difficult to see how a player with the experience and talent of Lorenzo Insigne won’t succeed in Major League Soccer. It is now up to Bill Manning and Bob Bradley to figure out how to build a capable roster around the player, so that he can hit the ground running when he joins the team come July.