Juventus playmaker Sebastian Giovinco has signed a Major League Soccer contract and will join Toronto FC this summer, the club announced on Monday.
Details of the contract were not announced, though the Toronto Sun reported that Giovinco had lined up a five-year deal worth more than $7 million a year. If the contract figure is accurate, Giovinco's total compensation could allow him to surpass Orlando City's Kaka as the highest-paid player in MLS.
Kaka has a base salary of $6.6 million with a total compensation of $7.17 million. The Sun reported that the additional guaranteed money on top of Giovinco's contract is "less than a million" dollars, which would give him a total compensation between $7-8 million.
Giovinco, who turns 28 in one week, will remain with Juventus until the end of the season. With his current contract expiring in six months, Giovinco was able to sign a contract with a new club on a free transfer. He can begin playing for Toronto when the MLS summer transfer window opens July 1.
"I am excited to sign with Toronto FC today and look forward to joining the club this summer," Giovinco said in a team statement. "I have heard so many great things about Toronto over the years and I know that it will be a city that I feel right at home in. Until then, I have many things I still want to accomplish for Juventus and our fans. I will always give my heart and soul for Juve until I change shirts this summer."
The 5-foot-4 Giovinco has the potential to be a game-changing addition for MLS, a league in which many foreign stars such as the incoming Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard are mostly past their primes and retired from international football.
But the "Atomic Ant" has made regular appearances for the Italian national team since Antonio Conte took over as coach after the World Cup. He started in Italy's most recent friendly against Albania in November.
Giovinco, who can play a variety of attacking positions, has found it difficult to break into the first team at Juventus this season, where he has to compete for a spot in the squad with the likes Carlos Tevez, Fernando Llorente and Alvaro Morata.
He has started just two Serie A games under Massimiliano Allegri while also appearing as a substitute in five more league games and three Champions League matches. After scoring twice in Juve's Coppa Italia match on Thursday, he appeared as a substitute in Sunday's Serie A win against Hellas Verona, his first appearance in the league since Dec. 18.
"Sebastian Giovinco is a complete player with the ability to not only create but also to score goals as he's proven throughout his career in Italy," Toronto coach Greg Vanney said. "We are very excited for the 2015 season and adding another important piece to an already solid core group only makes us stronger."
The move comes less than a week after Toronto FC signed another designated player, U.S. international striker Jozy Altidore, while also allowing another DP, striker Jermain Defoe, return to the English Premier League with Sunderland.
Together with Altidore, midfielder Michael Bradley and Brazilian striker Gilberto, the addition of Giovinco would bring the number of Toronto's DPs to four, meaning the club would have to release one -- likely Gilberto -- if the league's new collective bargaining agreement does not increase the number of DPs per team.
Toronto are already paying Bradley $6.5 million in total compensation, while Altidore's annual estimated salary is reportedly about $6 million. Gilberto, though, makes just over $1.2 million, and the Sun reported Toronto would try to find a buyer for him in Europe.
"Today marks a very special day for Toronto FC with the addition of Sebastian Giovinco," Toronto FC general manager Tim Bezbatchenko said. "Seba is in the prime of his career and he has chosen to join Toronto FC and MLS at a time when many of the top clubs in the world were pursuing him.
"We are very pleased to bring a fantastic player to Toronto FC for our club and for our fans, especially those in the Italian community."
Before this season, Giovinco scored 23 times in 70 appearances during a two-season loan spell at Parma. The Turin native began his career with Juventus in 2006.