As the new boss of Toronto FC, John Herdman believes the key to the team’s success lies in the italian duo of Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi.
Both players left their home country in the Serie A to join the first-ever team to capture a domestic treble, but things haven’t been fine and dandy since then. Insigne departed Napoli while Bernardeschi left the peak of Italian soccer by saying goodbye to Juventus, and both flew across the Atlantic to link up in MLS in the 2022 summer transfer window with high expectations ahead of them.
Despite scoring some great goals, the pair haven’t exactly lived up to their hefty price tag — $7.5m for Insigne and $3.13m base, $6.3m overall for Bernardeschi — that contributes to Toronto’s $25.7m league-leading roster payroll, according to an article from The Athletic published in May.
The two players still have plenty left in the tank in their careers (Bernardeschi is 29, Insigne is 32), and their stats from their first one-and-a-half seasons prove that if they can perform at the desire level, Toronto will be back to competing for trophies quite soon.
“…This is the future that I’ve dreamt of,” Herdman said in an interview with Neil Davidson of The Canadian Press. “To one day be a professional club coach, working with the players of the calibre of Lorenzo Insigne, Federico Bernardeschi, Sean Johnson, Michael Bradley, Jonathan Osorio on a daily basis.”
Unfortunately for Herdman, Michael Bradley has decided to hang up his boots following the conclusion of the 2023 MLS regular season (this interview was put out several days ago to be fair to him). But other than that, Herdman does have a solid core to work with in Toronto.
“It’s a privilege to work with players of that class and calibre,” Herdman said of the Italians. “But they’re frustrated and they’ve dealt with probably experiences they’ve never dealt with in their life and this is new to them … Not even knowing how to handle these moments is something that we’ve got to have empathy for.”
“I’ve seen a steeliness in the meetings. They’ve contributed. They’ve not sat back. But what I want to do is convince them that there is a new future here,” he said. “And with their ability and their experiences, they can create that new future.”
Toronto sit in the basement in MLS with just 22 points from 33 games played, and club captain Bradley will play his final game for the Reds on October 21 against Orlando City.
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