Sometimes it pays making a list.
In announcing the signing of Italian star winger Lorenzo Insigne, Toronto FC president Bill Manning said the hunt to acquire the Napoli captain started last summer out of concern at the struggling MLS club’s direction.
Knowing team owner Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment had a board meeting in September and having seen the local interest in Italy’s run to the European championship, he started researching possible player targets.
“I actually went to the Transfermarkt website and I looked up the Italian national team on what players were coming out of contract,” Manning told reporters Saturday. “And Lorenzo was one of the few players that was coming out of contract. I started writing down players that I thought were world-class, that I thought would have commercial value in this market.”
Manning, who had presented a five-year plan to the MLSE board when he was hired in 2015, said he then shared his “vision on what we need to do to reinvigorate our club and Lorenzo Insigne was the first name on that list.”
Months later, Manning has his man.
Insigne has signed a pre-contract to join the Major League Soccer club on a four-year deal to begin July 1. The Napoli captain will be 31 when he dons Toronto colours.
Insigne has played at the highest level, from the Champions League to World Cup.
He has made 416 appearances for Napoli, scoring 114 goals with 95 assists across all competitions. In 11 seasons with his hometown club, he has won the Super Cup (2014-15) and Coppa Italia (2013-14 and 2019-20).
Insigne has 10 goals in 53 appearances for Italy, helping the Azzurri to the European title last July in a penalty shootout win over England.
With Napoli’s season ending May 21, Insigne will have some time to recover in advance of the second half of Toronto’s campaign. But he will still face a busy year if sixth-ranked Italy qualifies for the World Cup in Qatar, which will necessitate qualifying playoff wins over No. 67 North Macedonia and then either No. 8 Portugal or No. 37 Turkey.
Manning called Insigne deal a “transformational signing” for both club and league — part of the franchise’s plan to load up in advance of the 2026 World Cup, which Canada is co-hosting.
The signing is a swing for the fences, with Toronto looking to return to its winning ways. Champions in 2017 and runners-up in 2016 and 2019, TFC finished 26th out of 27 teams last season with a dismal 6-18-10 campaign.
“Toronto FC’s really been out of market for two full seasons [due to the pandemic],” said Manning. “And we lost a buzz. We lost a buzz in this market.”
“Lorenzo Insigne is going to be a player that people want to come see,” he added.
At five foot four and 132 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 made a brief appearance via a social media video posted by TFC.
“I want to say hello to all the fans in Toronto,” he said in Italian. “I’m excited for this new adventure. I want to thank the club and we’ll see you in July.”
“All for one,” he added in English, quoting the TFC motto with a smile and thumb’s up.
After getting the MLSE board’s blessing, Manning turned to Italian agent Andrea D’Amico — who represented Italian star Sebastian Giovinco in his 2015 move to TFC — for help as an intermediary. D’Amico knew Insigne’s agent and made the first call.
Former MLS vice-president Lino DiCuollo also played a key role in the on-the-ground negotiations in Italy as Toronto looked to pry Insigne away from his beloved hometown club.
Offer reportedly trumped Napoli proposal
The talks were not exactly conducted under a cone of silence – more like a sieve with the Italian media providing numerous updates on their star player’s next destination.
Manning said TFC’s “ambition” as a North American club, coupled with the city’s sizable Italian community appealed to Insigne.
So did its contract offer, which apparently trumped those of other clubs including Napoli, which currently stands third in the Serie A standings at 12-4-4. Insigne will reportedly become the highest-paid player in MLS by a considerable margin.
Los Angeles FC forward Carlos Vela led the league’s pay scale last season at $6.3 million US, before taxes. Insigne reportedly will make more than that — after taxes.
With its Byzantine salary cap rules, MLS is still a league of have and have-nots. Second-year striker Ifunanyachi Achara made $66,724 with Toronto last season.
On the plus side, Toronto did not need to pay a transfer fee to acquire Insigne because his contract is expiring. The club paid fees of $10 million apiece to acquire U.S. midfielder Michael Bradley and England striker Jermain Defoe in 2014, with the two players earning a combined $12.68 million on top of that in their first season.
Bob Bradley, named Toronto’s head coach and sporting director in late November, coached Vela in Los Angeles.
While the quest to sign Insigne started before Bob Bradley’s arrival, Manning said the new coach was on board with the acquisition.
“He said to me nobody likes stars better than him,” Manning recalled.
In a statement, Bob Bradley — the father of Toronto’s captain — called Insigne’s ability to create chances for himself and teammates “special.”
“Lorenzo is the kind of player you come to watch, because there’s always a chance he’ll do something unforgettable,” he added.
Insigne will join Toronto as a designated player, meaning only a portion of his pay — it was $612,500 last season — will count against the team’s salary cap budget.
Designated player logjam
That means TFC will have to move one of its existing designated players — Spanish playmaker Alejandro Pozuelo, American striker Jozy Altidore and Venezuelan winger Yeferson Soteldo — to make room for Insigne.
Altidore and Soteldo are both expected to move on, freeing up more space for new talent. Manning said the team will sort out the DP logjam before Insigne’s arrival.
Toronto can buy one of them out, with no damage to its salary cap. It can also sell them, with a move back to Brazil rumoured for Soteldo.
Toronto has had success with diminutive Italians in the past. Giovinco, who joined Toronto from Juventus, scored 83 goals and added 64 assists in 142 appearances in all competitions before departing in 2019 for (financially) greener pastures in Saudi Arabia with Al Hilal SFC.
The five-foot-four 130-pound Giovinco, known as the Atomic Ant, virtually ran the table in his first year in North America. He won MVP honours as well as the Golden Boot as top scorer, was named top newcomer and voted onto the league’s Best XI.
Toronto paid Giovinco $7.115 million a season, which topped the league at the time.
TFC now needs to rebuild around Insigne, with defence a glaring issue after giving up a franchise-worst 66 goals in 2021. With marauding fullback Richie Laryea joining England’s Nottingham Forest, TFC has yet another hole to fill.
“It’s important that we give Bob the pieces that he can be successful with,” said Manning, promising more player moves in advance of the Feb. 26 kickoff to the season and during the summer transfer window.
Bigger names have joined MLS in the past but it can be argued that Insigne is closer to his prime.
David Beckham was 32 when he made his Los Angeles Galaxy debut in 2007. Swedish star Zlatan Ibrahimovic was 36 when he debuted for the Galaxy, scoring twice in his first game.
Born in Frattaminore, a stone’s throw north of Naples, Insigne joined his hometown Napoli in 2009, making his Serie A debut at the age of 19 in January 2001 and his Italy senior debut in September 2012.
Insigne comes from a big family with modest financial resources. He would get up at 5 or 6 a.m. to work “as a peddler” then go to training in the afternoons.
“Sometimes I’d fall asleep in the dressing room and the coach had to come and wake me up,” he said in a 2018 interview.
Insigne’s Napoli roots run deep. Growing up there, he named his dog Pocho — after Napoli’s Argentine star Ezequiel Lavezzi whose nickname was El Pocho.
Before joining Napoli, he had trials with Torino and Inter.
“But I was always dismissed because I was too short,” Insigne said. “I had considered giving up but my desire and passion were too strong. I wanted to make it as professional footballer and now I’m here.”
Insigne, who has two sons with wife Genoveffa (Jenny) Darone, wears No. 24 with Napoli, a number that currently belongs to TFC’s Canadian winger Jacob Shaffelburg.
MLSE is no stranger to big-ticket items.
Raptors star Pascal Siakam is earning $33 million this season. Maple Leaf forwards Auston Matthews ($10.47 million), Mitch Marner ($10.36 million) and John Tavares ($9.35 million) are making a combined $30.178 million this season.
Mega Jackpot: New Jersey Woman Wins $3.5 Million
December 1st of 2021, this day was engraved in stone for Dori B. The New Jersey resident bagged $3.5 million in casino winnings from popular BetMGM casino Borgata. One of the largest payouts issued by online casinos for real money games is the amount. The amount is also many jackpot records for individuals playing MGM Grand Millions of slots in the United States. BetMGM officials issued the check for the $3.5 million on Sunday with huge smiles and commented on the win. The vice president of BetMGM, Mr. Matthew Sunderland, congratulated the lady on her success. He termed it record-breaking since it is one of the highest ever issued by an online casino. The Vice President was enthusiastic and indicated that the company was proud to offer players Life-Changing Prizes! He takes pride in their casino games, terming the MGM Grand Millions slot as an Exclusive Jackpot Network, offering the best wins for the players who want to find the best online casino bonuses. He states that BetMGM cannot wait to continue setting records throughout the U.S.
- Dori B. Approach to the Jackpot
- What plans do you have?
- Popular Wins by BetMGM
- More about BetMGM
Dori B. Approach to the Jackpot
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What Plans Do You Have?
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Popular Wins by BetMGM
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More about BetMGM
New Jersey as a state alone has been a BetMGM stronghold. The company has several online casino brands in the state, generating $341.3 million in October alone. The amount is a testament to the casino brand’s quality of services. Also, it is double the amount made in the past ten months back in 2020, which rendered it in the third position. However, the new revenue generated in October brings the casino to the first position after overthrowing the famous Golden Nugget and Resorts Casino.
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Prescott on Cowboys fans throwing debris at refs: 'Credit to them' – theScore
The quarterback initially thought spectators were showering Cowboys players with garbage before reporters informed him the trash was intended for the referees.
“Oh, well, credit to them, then,” Prescott said, according to WFAA’s Mike Leslie.
Prescott was offered a chance to clarify his remark at the end of his postgame press conference but chose not to, according to Leslie.
Dallas lost moments before the debris was thrown, as the driving Cowboys failed to spike the ball while the final seconds ticked off the clock. Dallas lined up to snap the ball, but an official bumped into Prescott from behind and couldn’t spot the ball in time.
“The fans felt the same way as us,” Prescott said, according to the Dallas Morning News’ Michael Gehlken. “I guess that’s why the refs took off and got out of there so fast. I think everybody is upset with the way this thing played out.”
Referee Alex Kemp said afterward the officials operated properly and spotted the ball correctly.
Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy was also frustrated by the way the final seconds played out.
“We shouldn’t have had any problem getting the ball spotted there,” he said, per CBS Sports.
I Watched This Game: Pettersson breaks out in big Canucks win over Capitals – Vancouver Is Awesome
The Vancouver Canucks’ road trip was not going to plan. The Canucks were looking to make a statement against some of the top teams in the NHL, but through three games that statement appeared to be, “These teams are better than we are.”
On Sunday, the Canucks were facing another of the NHL’s best teams, the 7th-in-the-NHL Washington Capitals. They were doing so on the second half of back-to-backs in an afternoon game with one of their best forwards — Conor Garland — out on the NHL’s COVID protocol and with Thatcher Demko playing his fourth game in six nights.
That’s not typically a recipe for success but the Canucks bucked the odds thanks partly to a complete effort from the entire team but, more specifically, thanks to a breakthrough performance from Elias Pettersson.
The team’s franchise forward hasn’t exactly been playing like a franchise forward this season, unless you consider “getting fans’ hopes up and then leaving them bitterly disappointed” as a pretty accurate representation of the Canucks franchise.
Pettersson’s struggles culminated with a game on Saturday against the Carolina Hurricanes where pretty much everything that could go wrong did go wrong. He had some terrible giveaways, accidentally blocked what looked like a sure goal, took a skate to the face, hit the post on his best scoring chance, and snapped his stick in half on another chance, after which he got tripped by the goaltender and went crashing into the boards with no penalty call.
It seemed like there was nowhere to go but up for Pettersson and he went way, way up against the Capitals, scoring two enormous goals to lead the Canucks to the win.
“We don’t have a lot of natural scorers on our team,” said head coach Bruce Boudreau, “Hopefully, it’s not an anomaly or a one-off and he can continue to do this and then that’ll make it an awful lot easier on us.”
Of course, Boudreau had previously said that Pettersson’s game was rounding into form and that the scoring was on its way.
“When you start getting chances — he hit the post last game and he had a couple of breakaways the game before — it was inevitable that he was going to score at some point,” said Boudreau.
Pettersson, for his part, wasn’t worried.
“I know what I’m capable of,” said Pettersson. “Of course, it’s been tough for me. I’m trying to play my best hockey every game, and it’s been been a slow start.”
With limited media access due to COVID this season, Pettersson hasn’t been grilled by the media about his struggles all that much, so it wasn’t surprising that he was asked about his confidence. At one point, when he was again asked about mental aspect of his struggles, he muttered, “Oh, so it’s just gonna be questions like that.”
That’s a bit of the death-stare Pettersson from earlier in his career popping up and it’s honestly nice to see some of that confident bite back. But also, yeah, it’s going to be questions like that when you go from being a near point-per-game player with strong two-way play and a dominant playoff run under your belt to putting up 19 points in 38 games.
Pettersson is too good of a player to be kept quiet forever but even the biggest believers in Pettersson had to have their confidence rattled a little bit by his struggles this season.
Hopefully, this is just the start of a Pettersson renaissance. Frankly, I don’t think there’s any hope of the Canucks beating the odds and making the playoffs unless Pettersson regains his form and becomes the Canucks’ best forward like he has been in the past.
With Pettersson excelling, it was a lot more pleasant when I watched this game.
- It should be noted that while the Canucks were playing on the second half of back-to-backs, so were the Capitals. Also, the Canucks were missing Garland due to COVID protocol but the Capitals were missing John Carlson, who is tied for 6th in the NHL among defencemen in scoring, for the same reason. Maybe that all balances out.
- A big reason for the three-straight losses on this road trip was the power play going 0-for-12 in those three games, so it was great to see them go 2-for-4 tonight. Of course, that was countered by the penalty kill giving up two goals on two Capitals power plays, so you can’t really say that special teams were the difference.
- Before going 2-for-2 against the Canucks, the Capitals had gone 3-for-33 on the power play in their last 10 games and were 28th in the NHL overall in power play percentage. Despite their firepower up front, the Capitals have had one of the worst power plays in the NHL this season but you wouldn’t know it from Sunday’s game.
- “We’re all concerned about the penalty kill,” said Boudreau. “It’s great that you score power play goals and it was largely overdue…but we’ve got to shore up the penalty kill because I’m a big believer that if you can have your special teams in the top 10 in both categories, you’re usually a playoff team and you’re usually a tough team to beat.”
- Alex Ovechkin opened the scoring with a classic Ovechkin goal: a one-timer from the top of the left faceoff circle. There’s not much shame in giving up a goal like that to Ovechkin — he’s the greatest goalscorer in NHL history for a reason — but it was his third shot attempt from the exact same spot on that power play. Allowing three one-timers from the Ovi spot is like standing around in the open while Steven Seagal ever-so-slowly snipes all of the people around you — eventually, he’s going to get you.
- “I wouldn’t look at [Ovechkin] and he was looking right at me and I said, ‘No more,’” said Boudreau. “If he played against me every day, he’d probably have 110 goals a year. He gets up for it. Seriously, if it wasn’t for Demmer — Ovi had, on one shift, he had two great looks on two-on-ones, he had a couple great looks in the third period.”
- This was an outstanding game by the line of Tanner Pearson, J.T. Miller, and Brock Boeser, particularly in terms of puck possession. When they were on the ice together at 5-on-5, shot attempts were 22-to-8 for the Canucks, as they spent long shifts in the offensive zone. Pearson’s work on the forecheck was phenomenal, repeatedly winning the puck down low below the goal line.
- The only issue is that line couldn’t put the puck in the net. Pearson had the line’s best chance in the final minute of the first period, as J.T. Miller gave him a wide-open net but his stick was checked at the last second by Capitals defenceman Matt Irwin and his shot was sliding wide before it was cleared away by Aliaksei Protas.
- Pettersson responded for the Canucks with his own power play goal in the second period. After a stint as the net-front presence on the power play — an interesting experiment that largely failed because the Canucks never play the puck down low on the power play — Pettersson was moved back to the top of the right faceoff circle where he ought to be at the end of Saturday’s game and started there on Sunday. As 38 Special would say to him, “I want you back where you belong.”
- Pettersson’s goal wasn’t a mirror image of Ovechkin’s — instead of a one-timer blast, Pettersson instead made a patient play to step around the defenceman charging out to take away the shooting lane and whipped the puck off the short-side post and in. Like everything in the frame of a Wes Anderson movie, it was perfectly placed.
- A few minutes later, Pettersson made it 2-1 but the goal came after a strong shift by the Miller line that didn’t allow the Capitals to change. That allowed Pettersson and his linemates, Nils Höglander and Bo Horvat to buzz around the offensive zone until a point shot from Oliver Ekman-Larsson created a rebound. Pettersson’s first shot on the rebound was stopped but then he called bank and put the puck off the backside of goaltender Ilya Samsonov and in.
- Garnet Hathaway had a very stupid game for the Capitals. He took a ridiculously unnecessary penalty for knocking Ekman-Larsson’s helmet off, leading to the Canucks’ game-winning goal but his far worse offence was this elbow to the head of Tyler Motte completely away from the play. Hathaway got a two-minute minor that probably should’ve been a five-minute major and he ought to get a suspension out of it too.
- Horvat gave the Canucks the 3-1 lead with a fantastic shot from the bumper on the power play. He was helped by the threat of Pettersson’s shot: he just missed the net on a one-timer a moment earlier, so the penalty kill was cheating towards him. That left Horvat a little bit more room for a one-timer of his own that went short side on Samsonov.
- Miller’s pass on Horvat’s goal deserves another look because Miller didn’t give Horvat another look. He was looking towards Boeser down low the entire time, completely fooling penalty killer Nick Jensen, who swung his stick to block a pass to Boeser that never came, opening up the passing lane to Horvat on the inside.
- The Capitals mirrored Horvat’s goal with their own power play marker from the bumper. This time, the pass did go down low: Nicklas Backstrom passed to Evgeny Kuznetsov below the goal line, who relayed to Tom Wilson for the finish, with Tyler Myers and Jason Dickinson a step slow to prevent the shot.
- While the Canucks gave up two power play goals, they were much stingier defensively at 5-on-5 and they capably closed out the rest of the third period, protecting the one-goal lead until the final minute, when Boeser beat out an icing and centred for a Miller empty-net goal to seal the win, with Pearson getting the second assist. It was a fitting finish for a dominant effort by that line.
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