The latest salary figures show that Italian forwards Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi are among the highest-earning players in Major League Soccer.
It has been revealed that Insigne has a base salary of $7.5 million, although Swiss midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri of Chicago Fire is the highest overall earner with $8.15 million. Bernardeschi earns $6.3 million, putting him in fourth place in the MLS top salary list.
Both Italians have signed lucrative four-year contracts with Toronto FC. Insigne, who joined the Reds from Napoli on a free transfer in July 2022, scored seven goals in his first 18 appearances. Bernardeschi signed up after leaving Juventus in the same month and hit the target 11 times in his first 26 games. However, the truism that money does not always guarantee success is demonstrated by the poor form of Toronto FC this season.
The increasing popularity of soccer in Canada
Still, the signings demonstrate that Toronto FC is willing to invest in European talent in an attempt to return to past glory. Canadian football has come some way in recent years, and there has been increased interest in soccer in the Great White North following the national team’s first appearance at a World Cup since 1986. Although Canada finished bottom of a tough group encompassing Croatia, Belgium, and Morocco, the team won plaudits for its spirited performances. According to FIFA statistics, soccer in Canada must compete with ice hockey, even though the people’s game remains the most popular participation sport in the country.
Canadians are embracing soccer, and the entertainment industry is reaping the rewards of the increased love of the game in North America. The sales of FIFA 23, the latest iteration developed in part by EA Vancouver, are up 50% in North America, according to Andrew Wilson, CEO of Electronic Arts. In the iGaming industry, the best online casino Canada offers various soccer slots, such as Maradona, Football Glory, and Big Football Bonus. With the 2026 FIFA World Cup taking place in Canada, Mexico, and the United States, the appetite for soccer-themed entertainment among Canadians is set to continue to grow.
Struggling to find their form
The Reds have competed in MLS since 2007 and won the league in 2017 with the help of Italian striker Sebastian Giovinco, who scored 20 goals. Although Toronto FC finished in second place in the Eastern Conference and second overall in 2020, the team has ended up in a disappointing 13th place in the past two seasons. The poor form looks set to continue this year with the club in the doldrums, currently bottom of the Eastern Conference with just two wins in 13 games so far this season. The club has been hampered by the absence of Italian star forward Insigne through injury.
Toronto FC now has three Italian players on its books after the club signed German-born Italian international Raoul Petretta from Turkish club Kasımpaşa S.K. in January 2023. The move came after Italian left-back Domenico Criscito announced his retirement from football in November 2022. However, he later reconsidered his decision to quit the game and returned to Serie A to play for Genoa. Other prominent Italians plying their trade in MLS include the legendary Italian centre-back Giorgio Chiellini, who plays for Los Angeles Football Club, and CF Montréal defender Gabriele Corbo.
With the opportunity to make big money moves at the twilight of their careers, this is unlikely to be the last of the Italian stars who decide to move to MLS.