By Isabella Monaco
Nelson Felgueiras saw January 8, 2022 as just another regular Saturday.
Opening Spotify on his phone and choosing his favourite playlist to listen to, Felguerias took it upon himself to clean up around his apartment while he waited for his wife to return home from her shopping trip. An hour later, the dishes had been cleaned, the floors had been swept and just about every song on his playlist had been played. Taking a seat on the sofa to admire his now clean apartment, Felguerias looked at his phone and saw four notifications; a text from his wife and three notifications from various different sports apps he had on his phone.
He gasped, almost letting his phone slip from his fingers onto his freshly swept floors.
“We got him!” he said to himself in disbelief. After weeks of speculation, it was finally confirmed that Lorenzo Insigne would be joining Toronto FC this year.
The 30-year-old SSC Napoli captain signed a record-breaking four-year contract with TFC in which he’ll be earning $8 million per year, including bonuses. The last time TFC fans were hyped like this for a player was back in 2015, when Sebastian Giovinco joined the team after leaving Juventus. During his short time in Toronto, ticket sales increased, game attendance was at an all-time high, and soccer fans across the country made their way to BMO field for a chance to see Giovinco play in red and white. Now, history seems to be repeating itself — and another Italian soccer star will be playing at BMO field this summer.
The Insigne rumors seemed too good to be true. Was the SSC Napoli captain really going to leave his hometown team just for some more cash in Toronto? It seemed like a bit of a longshot. TFC fans already had their ‘soccer star era’ with Giovinco — could they be so lucky to have that happen again? Fast forward six months, and all the rumors had finally been put to rest; Insigne is coming to Toronto this summer. Despite the excitement every TFC fan was feeling, one big question remained: will Insigne be enough for fans to fill BMO field stands this summer?
The recent Insigne deal has life-long soccer fan Nelson Felgueiras reminiscing about his favourite soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo, and his move to Juventus from Real Madrid just a few years ago.
“I remember when Ronaldo went to Juventus and how big of a deal that was. No matter where he goes, he’s going to draw a crowd — especially with the Portuguese fans. I know Insigne isn’t Ronaldo, but it’s gonna be the same dynamic when he’s (Insigne) in Toronto, except he’ll be bringing out all the Italian fans to the games,” he tells me with a small chuckle.
Witnessing BMO field filled with fans like himself this upcoming season is something Felgueiras is looking forward to, as he has numerous plans to see the soccer star this summer.
Laura Armstrong, a local sports writer for the Toronto Star, has been following the Insigne deal since the rumours had started floating around online.
“Toronto FC definitely needed to make a move like this,” she says. “I don’t necessarily think anyone expected it to be such a big name and such a big move,”
She recalls how Sebastian Giovinco brought out large crowds to games upon his arrival to TFC. Insigne will likely do the same she says.
In a recent interview with TSN, TFC President Bill Manning, believes that Insigne’s move to Toronto will certainly benefit the team off the field. Without Insigne in Toronto until July, TFC was able to nearly sell out BMO field with a total of 24,000 tickets sold for their home opener just last month.
With the absence of professional soccer in Canada for a very long time, many long-time soccer fans have allegiances to international teams rather than local Canadian and North American teams. There will be times when Insigne will be playing a game with TFC, while another international game is played at the same time. The concern is whether or not people would rather stay home and watch an international game, or if they’ll come out to BMO Field.
“I certainly think with Insigne on the team, (TFC) are definitely more likely to get those fans out to fill the stands, because local Italian-Canadians want to see Italian representation on that team,” Armstrong says.
There are many benefits that come to bringing a Serie A player to an MLS team, but as Armstrong discussed, TFC will have to put that effort in to ensure its success. It’s all up to TFC and Insigne to find a way to make things work on the field this summer, so fans will be just as excited to see him in a few months as they are right now.