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Source: Toronto FC in advanced talks with Italian star Lorenzo Insigne

Toronto FC is in advanced talks to land Italian star forward Lorenzo Insigne.

Toronto FC is in advanced talks to land Italian star forward Lorenzo Insigne.

A source, not authorized to speak on the negotiations, confirmed that discussions between the MLS team and the Napoli captain's camp are serious and have been going on for a while but have yet to be finalized. It appears the talks may be reaching a tipping point, however.

Reports have suggested Toronto is willing to pay a record sum to have Insigne in TFC colours. Los Angeles FC forward Carlos Vela led the league in pay last season at US$6.3 million.

Landing the 30-year-old Insigne would be for a coup for a Toronto team looking to return to its winning ways when another Italian, Sebastian Giovinco, led the attack with panache. Giovinco made $7.1 million in 2018 in his final year with Toronto, with Insigne costing considerably more.

Insigne started for Italy in its Euro 2020 final win over England and had two goals at the tournament. He made his debut for Italy in 2012 and has 10 goals in 53 appearances, also playing for his country at the 2014 World Cup and Euro 2016.

At five foot four and 130 pounds, Insigne is small but packs a punch. He can play in attack across the field but is often deployed as a left winger where he can use his speed, ball skills and powerful shot to great effect.

Insigne, who made his first-team debut with Napoli in 2009, is out of contract at the end of this season.

With owner Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment no stranger to digging deep into its pocket to attract a big name, Toronto desperately needs some star power on and off the field.

Champions in 2017 and runners-up in 2016 and 2019, Toronto is coming off a 6-18-10 season that saw the club finish 26th out of 27 teams. The vast majority of the franchise's season-ticket base opted to forgo what little of the season that was played in Toronto, put off by the pandemic and the team's woeful on-field performance.

Instead they put their hopes — and ticket investment — in the 2022 season. 

Bob Bradley was hired in the off-season to head up the rebuild as head coach and sporting director. 

To acquire Insigne, Toronto would have to shed one of its three designated players. While Spanish playmaker Alejandro Pozuelo, the league's MVP in 2020, appears committed to staying, U.S. international forward Jozy Altidore and Venezuelan winger Yeferson Soteldo both would seem open to a move.

The 32-year-old Altidore spent close to two months on the outs with the club last season

After totalling 56 goals in his first five seasons in Toronto, the injury-plagued Altidore had just six over the last two seasons.

Soteldo, meanwhile, seemed unhappy at times in his first year with the club. He had three goals and 10 assists in 24 games in MLS after leaving Brazil's Santos to come north.

The 30-year-old Pozuelo, who ranked fourth in the league in pay at $4.693 million, had one goal and four assists in an injury-interrupted season that saw him play in just 19 games.


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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 28, 2021

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press