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Jan 4, 2022

Where would Insigne rank among biggest MLS signings of all-time?

With Fabrizio Romano reporting that Lorenzo Insigne is set to join Toronto FC in June, let's take a look at where the signing of the Italy winger ranks among some of the biggest signings in MLS history.

Examining the impact Insigne's megadeal will have on Toronto FC and MLS

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With Fabrizio Romano reporting that Lorenzo Insigne is set to join Toronto FC in June, let's take a look at where the signing of the Italy winger ranks among the biggest signings in MLS history.

For the purposes of this exercise, we will look at modern MLS history, so you won't be seeing Carlos Valderrama or Hristo Stoichkov here, and focus on non-North American players. In terms of honours, we're looking at major trophies, team or individual.

LA GALAXY

David Beckham
David Beckham

2007

MLS STATS

  • AGE
    32
  • SEASONS
    6
  • GAMES PLAYED
    98
  • GOALS
    18
  • HONOURS
    4
David Beckham was hardly a spent force when he arrived in Major League Soccer, as witnessed by his loan spells at Milan and subsequent move to Paris Saint-Germain, but his spell at LA Galaxy was as much about marketing as it was football. While Beckham did win two MLS Cups and two Supporters' Shields in his time in MLS, his success off the field dwarfed that on the field. The Manchester United icon drew new sets of eyeballs to the league and raised MLS's profile across the world. From a personal perspective, the move allowed Beckham to build his brand in North America and set himself up to bring his own expansion team to the league with Inter Miami in 2020.

NEW YORK RED BULLS

Thierry Henry
Thierry Henry

2010

MLS STATS

  • AGE
    32
  • SEASONS
    5
  • GAMES PLAYED
    122
  • GOALS
    51
  • HONOURS
    1
A World Cup-winning Arsenal legend, Thierry Henry finished his career in MLS with the Red Bulls, joining former Barcelona teammate Rafael Marquez with the squad. Henry was a consistent scoring threat in the NYRB lineup, notching double-digit goals in each of his four full seasons with the team. The Red Bulls won the Supporters' Shield in 2013, but were eliminated at the quarterfinal stage of the playoffs with the MLS Cup proving to be elusive for Henry. Certainly Henry would not have the cultural impact that Beckham did, but like his former Premier League rival, he helped to further legitimize the league in the eyes of his European peers.

LA GALAXY

Robbie Keane
Robbie Keane

2011

MLS STATS

  • AGE
    31
  • SEASONS
    6
  • GAMES PLAYED
    125
  • GOALS
    83
  • HONOURS
    5
The signing of the well-travelled Robbie Keane did not bring with it the cache of the Galaxy's signing of David Beckham, but the Ireland international proved to be the exact right kind of signing for the team. At one time this league's highest-paid player, Keane did in MLS what he did in the Premier League and that was score buckets of goals while playing at a high level. With the Galaxy, Keane won three MLS Cups and a Supporters' Shield and was named the 2014 MLS Most Valuable Player. Keane's 83 goals are 17th all-time in MLS history.

LA Galaxy

Steven Gerrard
Steven Gerrard

2015

MLS STATS

  • AGE
    35
  • SEASONS
    2
  • GAMES PLAYED
    34
  • GOALS
    5
  • HONOURS
    None
The allure of an MLS payday proved to be greater than that of remaining a one-club player for Liverpool talisman Steven Gerrard. Granted, Gerrard can still say he only played for one club in Europe, his North American sojourn ended being unremarkable. The current Aston Villa manager appeared in only 34 matches in his two seasons and his heart never truly appeared to be in it. The Gerrard signing proved to be the kind that MLS has tried to shy away from in recent years - a big name arriving with very little left in the tank, but willing to be paid for past glory.

ORLANDO CITY

Kaka
Kaka

2014

MLS STATS

  • AGE
    32
  • SEASONS
    3
  • GAMES PLAYED
    75
  • GOALS
    24
  • HONOURS
    None
A World Cup winner with Brazil and a Champions League winner with Milan, Kaka was expansion side Orlando City's glamour signing as MLS made its return to Florida. The highest-paid player in MLS history at the time with an annual compensation package of $7.2 million, Kaka's impact was felt early on as he scored the first MLS goal in club history and managed to notch 24 in his three seasons with the team. But Kaka couldn't work magic in Orlando and the team missed the playoffs every year during his time in the Sunshine State.

TORONTO FC

Jermain Defoe
Jermain Defoe

2014

MLS STATS

  • AGE
    32
  • SEASONS
    1
  • GAMES PLAYED
    19
  • GOALS
    11
  • HONOURS
    None
If you were living in Toronto in 2014, you were probably well aware that the signing of Jermain Defoe was "a Bloody Big Deal." The England international's signing marked a step-up in the calibre of Designated Player signed by TFC and for long-suffering supporters, it meant that success might finally be on the horizon. While Defoe's 11 goals in 19 games was impressive, moving to North America clearly wasn't what he thought it was going to be. Defoe was unsettled at the club and TFC struggled yet again with manager Ryan Nelsen fired midseason. At season's end, Defoe returned to England with a move to Sunderland that saw United States striker Jozy Altidore go the other way. Though Defoe didn't work out for TFC, that didn't stop the club from signing diminutive attacking talents in the future...

LA GALAXY

Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Zlatan Ibrahimovic

2018

MLS STATS

  • AGE
    37
  • SEASONS
    2
  • GAMES PLAYED
    58
  • GOALS
    53
  • HONOURS
    None
Zlatan Ibrahimovic did in Major League Soccer what he's done everywhere he's been: score scads of goals. The legendary Swedish hitman scored at almost a goal-a-game pace in his two seasons in California, notching a number of stylish markers and even scoring his 500th professional goal for club and country in a game against Toronto FC. Like with David Beckham's move to Los Angeles, Ibra used his to further build his own brand and become even more of a global star. While the Galaxy didn't win any trophies in Ibrahimovic's two seasons with the team, his presence and aura more than made up for that. Just ask Kevin.

DC United

Wayne Rooney
Wayne Rooney

2018

MLS STATS

  • AGE
    33
  • SEASONS
    2
  • GAMES PLAYED
    48
  • GOALS
    23
  • HONOURS
    None
Wayne Rooney arrived at DC United a year after he had returned to Everton after 13 seasons at Manchester United in which he won every trophy under the sun. Heading back to Goodison Park was seen as Rooney bringing his career full circle before he hung up his cleats, but retirement never came and a lucrative deal with DC United was signed instead. Rooney was DCU's leading scorer in both seasons and his output in MLS was nothing to sneeze at, scoring 23 goals and adding 15 assists in his two seasons. While United made the playoffs in both years that Rooney was there, no postseason success would be found. His MLS career finished on a particularly ignominious note as Toronto FC scored four goals in extra time to dump Rooney and United out of the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. 

NEW YORK CITY FC

Frank Lampard
Frank Lampard

2015

MLS STATS

  • AGE
    37
  • SEASONS
    2
  • GAMES PLAYED
    29
  • GOALS
    15
  • HONOURS
    None
Frank Lampard's signing with New York City FC remains a controversial one to this day because the actual terms of the agreement are still a source of contention. NYCFC's parent company is the City Football Group, the Abu Dhabi-based consortium that owns Manchester City. Upon leaving Chelsea in 2014, Lampard was announced to have signed a two-year deal with NYCFC and would be immediately loaned to Man City. Later it emerged that Lampard had signed a "head of terms of commitment" deal with NYCFC after then-City manager Manuel Pellegrini admitted that he never signed the player. City were accused of playing a shell game with Lampard's deal in order to evade FIFA Fair Play regulations. Nothing ever came of any investigation and the intrigue surrounding Lampard's move was greater than his impact at NYCFC. He was fine, scoring 15 goals in his two seasons, but like with Andrea Pirlo, Lampard was a legend in his twilight days collecting a big wage to play out the string.

TORONTO FC

Sebastian Giovinco
Sebastian Giovinco

2015

MLS STATS

  • AGE
    28
  • SEASONS
    4
  • GAMES PLAYED
    114
  • GOALS
    63
  • HONOURS
    7

He came, he saw, he conquered.

Sebastian Giovinco will be the obvious comparison for Lorenzo Insigne when he arrives in Toronto. A small in stature, but pacey and crafty Italy international still in his prime, "The Atomic Ant" was everything that the Reds wanted and more, taking MLS by storm and helping to finally lead TFC to glory. If Defoe represented the start of that process, Giovinco was its culmination. Giovinco offered no wasted movement. There was a purpose to everything. He was a constant threat when he had the ball. In his four seasons with the team, Giovinco won three Canadian Championships, a Supporters' Shield and the 2017 MLS Cup, the franchise's first ever. He was named both MLS Newcomer of the Year and MVP in 2015. He left Toronto with a slew of records, including most goals in a season (22) and most goals in franchise history (63).

Sebastian Giovinco and Lorenzo Insigne are not the same player, but if the latter can conjure up even a fraction of the excitement and quality of the former, TFC's return to MLS's elite could happen in a hurry.