“We’re not going to sign a Lorenzo”: Bill Manning says Toronto FC won’t spend as much on its third DP

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November 1, 2022
Michael Singh
November 1, 2022

Toronto FC President Bill Manning has cautioned TFC fans not to expect the same level of spending on the club’s third designated player (DP) following a significant investment in Italian national team stars Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi last season.

Insigne and Bernardeschi were Toronto’s headline signings in 2022 and will remain the face of the franchise for the foreseeable future. According to figures released by the MLSPA last month, the duo made a combined $20.26 million US in guaranteed compensation. That sum was greater than the entire payrolls of 23 of Major League Soccer’s 27 teams. Both players are under contract through 2026.

TFC have the ability to add one more high-priced DP to its roster, though Manning hinted that the expectation is Toronto will not make a significant splash in the transfer market this time around.

Manning, speaking at the team’s end-of-season media availability, said: “I don’t think any team in the league goes and gets three players like we got (who are) national team regulars and European champions like Federico and Lorenzo.

“Our third DP is going to be an important piece of the puzzle. […] You need to get your DPs right. We think we have two quality players in Lorenzo and Federico and so this third player is going to be someone that we're going to acquire who will be a designated player and I think, hopefully, will have a major impact on the team as we go forward.

“We're not going to go out and sign a Lorenzo but we're going to sign the right player and so whatever wiggle room we need to make there our organization (MLSE) has always been supportive of getting the right player.”

As for whether the club would be willing to pay a transfer fee, Manning shot down the notion of paying a significant sum (like in 2019 when the club reportedly paid $10 million to acquire Alejandro Pozuelo from Belgian side KRC Genk) but didn’t entirely dismiss the possibility of dishing out a smaller fee for the right player.

“I don't think we're going to be in the market for a large transfer fee, say like with Alejandro because he really was […] going to be our number one DP at that point,” Manning said. “But again, I think it's the right player, the right contract, and so if it does require a transfer fee, we'll look at that as part of the overall budget.”

Added the TFC President: “As we continue to search and to look around at some of our targets, the right player that presents himself at the right wage will determine who the DP is.”

Head Coach and Sporting Director Bob Bradley, who will spearhead TFC’s search for its third DP – alongside Manning, Assistant GM Jason Hernandez, Technical Director/Assistant Coach Mike Sorber, and the team’s scouting department led by Director of Scouting Operations Jack Dodd – hinted at the possibility of getting creative with the third DP slot which would enable the club to invest more in other areas on the roster.

When asked what area on the pitch the team would like to use its third DP slot, Bradley replied: “Do you use it on a big DP? Do you use it on a young DP? How you then have money for other things, it all becomes connected.

“If you were able to find a certain type of player that fits one of (our) needs that doesn't need to be paid above a certain level then that helps you in other ways, so it's not easy to say 100 per cent ‘okay, the extra DP slot is for this position.’ It's not easy to be that specific right now.”

Without getting too into the nit and grit of MLS roster rules and regulations, if Toronto FC were to sign a player under the age of 22, that would allow the club to use three U22 Initiative Slots as opposed to just one. Similarly, if TFC were to sign a player making at, or below, the max TAM amount ($1,612,500), the club would be able to use all three U22 Initiative slots. As Bradley mentioned, Toronto FC are exploring those options.

Last season, Ayo Akinola was Toronto’s lone U22 Initiative signing. He made a shade less than $700,000 USD last season but carried a budget charge of just $200,000. For a team like TFC, who essentially will spend to the limit every season, the further flexibility to improve its overall quality of depth is an intriguing prospect.

Toronto FC player Federico Bernardeschi shakes hands with Toronto FC president Bill Manning during a press conference at Real Sports in Toronto. (Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports)

Internally, Toronto have discussed the possibility of using its third DP slot on a number of positions, from striker to centre-back, with an emphasis being placed on improving the spine of the team. After allowing 1.9 goals per game for the second-straight season, they would like to bring in several defensive-minded players to shore up its defense.

Likewise, Toronto would like to improve their No. 9 position by acquiring “someone (who can) consistently put the ball in the back of the net.” Their strikers, Jésus Jiménez and Akinola, combined to score just two goals in 15 matches following the debuts of Insigne and Bernardeschi.

The next few months will be busy for TFC. There are a few players currently under contract that will likely depart the club before the start of the season, as Toronto’s goal is to have all its acquisitions, and the entire team, in place by the time they depart for its second training camp in February.

“My experience is that once you start building that consistency is when you start to win, and that’s something I think we have to get back to,” Manning said.

“Lorenzo and Federico obviously are foundational pieces over the next four years, so those are guys that we’re going to build around and use their special qualities to hopefully then compete for championships.”