One of the most exciting fan aspects in football is when your favourite team announces a new signing that you would have never seen coming a year before.
From World Cup winners to European club legends, MLS has had its fair share of marquee signings ever since David Beckham made the move from Real Madrid to LA Galaxy in 2007. One club that has been no stranger to major moves over the last several years is Toronto FC.
Since MLSE paid $10 million to acquire the franchise all those years ago, players from across the world have donned the famous red jersey, and while some may have not set the world alight, the transfer sagas themselves were exciting nonetheless.
With a Euro 2020 winner set to join the ranks in July 2022, Toronto has once again flexed their financial muscle to pull off one of the most remarkable deals in the history of Major League Soccer.
While big-name signings sometimes fail to live up to the high expectations placed upon them, the thrill behind a noteworthy player joining is something quite special, especially in North America. Moreover, let’s take a look back at the top 10 BIGGEST signings in Toronto FC history.
10. Alejandro Pozuelo (signed from Genk in 2019)
To this day, Pozuelo remains TFC’s record signing, and at the time of his purchase, the Spaniard was the third-most expensive buy in MLS history.
The former Swansea man was signed for an estimated $11 million after amassing 177 appearances for Belgian side Genk. Pozuelo played over 35 matches in each of his four seasons in Belgium and also played in three UEFA Europa League campaigns (13/14 with Swansea, 16/17 and 18/19 with Genk).
He may have never established himself on the international stage during his time in Europe, but Pozuelo’s price tag and his status as a DP made him a prominent addition in the eyes of the club.
In his first season at TFC, Pozuelo guided the club to the 2019 MLS Cup Final, played in the All-Star game and was named in the 2019 Best XI. The following year, the Spaniard picked up his most significant accolade to date, the 2020 Landon Donovan MVP Award.
9. Torsten Frings (signed from Werder Bremen in 2011)
Frings is the only player in TFC history that has featured in both a World Cup (2002) and Euro (2008) Final. While TFC was the final chapter of his illustrious playing career, a German footballing legend was always going to be an exciting purchase for the Reds.
During his time in Germany, Frings won one Bundesliga title, three DFB-Pokals, and two DFL-Ligapokals (The German League Cup, which was abolished in 2007). He was also included in the Bundesliga Team of the Season four times.
Injuries plagued his time in Toronto, but the German was still able to lift the 2012 Canadian Championship title before calling time on his career.
Ultimately, it was momentous to see a player with a resume like his join TFC less than five years after the club debuted in MLS.
8. Víctor Vázquez (signed from Cruz Azul in 2017)
Five words: La Masia Class of ‘87.
Vázquez played alongside Lionel Messi, Cesc Fàbregas and Gerard Piqué at Barcelona’s acclaimed academy and would go on to make over 100 appearances for Barcelona B.
Yet, he only made three first team appearances, two of which came in the UEFA Champions League. As a result of playing one game in both the 2008/09 and 2010/11 Champions League title winning campaigns, he is in fact a two-time European champion for Barcelona.
After a total of 14 years in Catalonia, Vázquez took his talents to Club Brugge in Belgium, where he made a total of 165 appearances in five years. The Spaniard won a league title and a domestic cup before making the move to Mexico with Cruz Azul.
The attacking midfielder struggled to make an impact in Liga MX, which prompted him sign for TFC in February 2017. Vázquez’s roots with Barcelona, as well as his natural playmaking ability, made him just the signing the Reds needed to go on and win the historic treble the same year he joined.
7. Gregory van der Wiel (signed from Cagliari in 2018)
The Dutchman joined TFC with 17 major honours to his name, including two Eredivisie and four Ligue 1 titles during his time with Ajax and Paris Saint-Germain respectively.
Most notably, van der Wiel played the full 120 minutes in the Netherlands’ 2010 FIFA World Cup Final defeat to Spain. That same year, he was named the Dutch Young Player of the Year as he continued to establish himself as one of Europe’s brightest young right-backs.
Following his departure from PSG in 2016, van der Wiel played a full season at Fenerbahçe and half of one at Cagliari in Serie A before joining TFC, which like Frings, was the last club of his career.
Van der Wiel played a total of 34 matches for the Reds, including the full game in both legs of the 2018 CONCACAF Champions League Final. Yet, a bust-up with former manager Greg Vanney in early 2019 spelled the end of his time in Canada.
His playing career may have ended early, but it’s evident that this signing was one to remember given what he had achieved in Europe and at the international level.
6. Júlio César (signed on loan from QPR in 2014)
In 2010, César lifted the UEFA Champions League with Inter Milan. Little did he know that three years later, he would’ve been a part of the Queens Park Rangers side that suffered relegation from the English Premier League.
Having been frozen out by QPR during their first season back in England’s second tier, César was in need of game time ahead of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Cue a loan move to TFC.
Despite making just seven appearances during his temporary spell in Canada, the Brazilian shot stopper remains one of two TFC players to have played at a World Cup while signed to the club.
In his prime, César was one of the most esteemed goalkeepers playing in Europe, showcased by the 14 trophies he won in seven seasons at Inter. He may have not been in Toronto for long, but having goalkeeper of his stature play in MLS was definitely newsworthy, especially before a World Cup in his home country.
5. Jozy Altidore (signed from Sunderland in 2015)
Altidore is arguably one of the most iconic American football players to ever grace a pitch, which made his 2015 return to MLS seven years after leaving the New York Red Bulls even more memorable.
In spite of his struggles with Villarreal, Hull City and Sunderland, Alitdore was a star in the Eredivisie, scoring 54 goals in two seasons for AZ Alkmaar and helping them win the KNVB Cup in 2013.
It’s safe to say that Altidore has ingrained himself in TFC folklore, specifically after his heroics in the 2017 MLS Cup Final. He is currently the club’s second all-time top goalscorer and fifth all-time appearance leader.
One of America’s favourites undoubtedly made his mark in Canada as he turned out to be a vital ingredient to TFC’s recipe for success over the last few years.
4. Michael Bradley (signed from AS Roma in 2014)
With over 150 appearances for the USMNT (third all-time), Bradley is known globally as one of the USA’s most famous players.
His feats with the national team made him an American hero, specifically his late equalizer against Slovenia at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, and him playing all 390 minutes of his nation’s matches at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
In terms of his club career, Bradley moved to Heerenveen in the Eredivisie following his breakthrough with the MetroStars in 2005. He may not be a natural goalscorer, but Bradley bagged 19 in all competitions during the 2007/08 campaign, which at the time, was most goals scored in a single season by an American playing in a European first division.
Up next on his journey through Europe were spells at Borussia Mönchengladbach, Aston Villa (on loan), Chievo, and Roma. He came closest to winning a trophy in Europe with Roma, losing the 2013 Coppa Italia Final to arch rivals Lazio.
Bradley’s first piece of silverware at club level came with TFC, winning the Canadian Championship in 2016. What soon followed was him captaining the side to the treble in 2017 while writing his place in Toronto FC history as one of the greatest leaders the club has ever seen.
3. Sebastian Giovinco (signed from Juventus in 2015)
Giovinco came up through the ranks at Juventus and enjoyed his most fruitful first team campaign during the 2012/13 season, where he made 42 appearances and scored 11 times, as Juventus won their second straight Serie A title.
The following year, he only scored three times and saw less game time due to the summer arrivals of Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente. His first team opportunities in Turin continued to dwindle the next season after Alvaro Morata and Kingsley Coman were both signed for the Old Lady to continue their pursuit of an overdue Champions League triumph.
Mid-way through the 2014/15 campaign, the season Juventus reached the Champions League Final, Giovinco made his sensational transfer to Toronto FC, a move which raised the bar for both the club and MLS.
Having played alongside the likes of Paul Pogba, Arturo Vidal and the Italian national team, Giovinco brought a heap of experience to Toronto and shortly became one of the best and most enthralling players to ever play in North America.
As well as his titles with TFC, he won quite a few individual accolades, including MLS MVP, the MLS Golden Boot, and the MLS Newcomer of the Year during his debut campaign.
The Atomic Ant’s career peaked in Toronto, and that was following a move from one of Italy and Europe’s most historic and distinguished teams.
2. Jermain Defoe (signed from Tottenham Hotspur in 2014)
A year before Giovinco, TFC signed one of England’s most renowned strikers from one of Europe’s most famous clubs.
Defoe was into the sixth season of his second stint at Tottenham, where he had scored 10 goals in 22 games ahead of the 2014 January Transfer Window. A move to Toronto FC truly was a “bloody big deal,” (How could we ever forget that double-decker bus).
The only winners’ medal he had collected before moving to Canada was the 2007/08 League Cup, but in spite of that, Defoe was an England regular and had years of Premier League and European experience with Spurs, scoring just under 150 goals for the North London club.
As another player who joined TFC directly from one of Europe’s elite, this was a signing that made headlines across England and North America. His time in Canada was indeed short-lived, yet he still managed to score 12 goals in 21 games before returning to England in January 2015.
All in all, Defoe was a high profile name that attracted a great deal of attention to a developing and improving Toronto FC squad.
1. Lorenzo Insigne (signed from Napoli in 2022)
It’s crazy to think that once Insigne touches down in Toronto, it will have been only one year since he helped Italy win Euro 2020 at Wembley.
Insigne is Napoli’s fourth all-time top scorer and appearance maker and has won three pieces of domestic silverware (Coppa Italia x2, Supercoppa Italiana) during his 10+ years with the club from Naples. The Italy international is now set to join Toronto FC once his current Napoli deal expires at the end of the 2021/22 season.
Based on the numbers, this signing is absolutely remarkable. Insigne will sign a five-and-a-half-year contract worth €11.5m per season, as well as €4.5m in performance add-ons, which would ultimately make him the highest paid Italian player on the planet.
In fact, Insigne’s salary alone is higher than the payrolls of 16 of MLS’s 27 clubs during the 2021 campaign.
Coupled with the figures behind the deal, Insigne is far from the closing stages of his career. Given that, he will undeniably be TFC’s X-factor in their fight to win trophies in 2022. With Italy also still on the hunt for a place at the 2022 FIFA World Cup, there’s no denying that should they qualify, Insigne will have eyes on continuing to impress Roberto Mancini when he begins his journey in Toronto.
The hype is very real, and Toronto FC fans are more ready than ever for summer to arrive on Lakeshore.