First impressions are important.
And Federico Bernardeschi, the latest Italian recruit to Toronto FC, made quite the impression when he was introduced to the fans and media at Real Sports on Monday afternoon.
“Hi Toronto, nice to meet you all,” he opened in English, adorned in an all-white summer suit. “I'm so excited to be here in this family. I'm so very, very, very happy to be here and for my decision.”
Long-rumoured to be coming, it was a secret visit a few months back that sold him on coming to TFC.
“I chose Toronto because this is a big project for the future,” he explained. “And I saw Toronto two months ago in secret with Bill [Manning], Bob [Bradley], Andrea [D’Amico], and I loved Toronto after one minute and [wanted] to stay here.”
“I love, I love so much,” Bernardeschi continued. “I choose Toronto because I have a big, big family: the fans, the team, and all the people who work in TFC.”
He was welcomed once more by the front office on Monday.
“As we've gotten to know him over the past month, as good as he is as a player he's an incredible person,” said TFC President Manning. “A full Italian international, European champion, played for one of the biggest clubs in the world the last five seasons, at 28 years old to join Toronto FC and Major League Soccer, it's very rare and so we are incredibly excited to see what he's going to do here.”
“If his history says anything, winning seven trophies with his last club,” he added. “We’re in for a bright future, so I welcome Federico.”
TFC Head Coach and Sporting Director Bradley highlighted his infectious personality: “[When] Federico visited a few weeks ago. He and I sat together, we didn't need a translator. I showed him some video, we talked about football, and I could see right away the personality and the passion that he has for the game.”
“Today, introduced him to the team, he stood up, spoke in English, excited to be here – it really comes across in a real way, in a strong way, for him to join our team,” he continued. “So welcome, really excited to have you with us.”
Hailing from Carrara in Tuscany, Bernardeschi came up through the ACF Fiorentina youth system before breaking into the first team in 2014. He signed for Juventus FC in 2017 and spent five years with the Italian giants where he lifted several Serie A titles, as well as Coppa Italias and Supercoppa Italianas, and, of course, he was a key member of the Italian side that won the 2020 UEFA European Championship.
Bernardeschi comes to MLS in the prime of an already illustrious career.
“MLS is very competitive and it has a huge future,” he said through a translator. “I really believe in the project of this team. I decided to come here for a new opportunity, to win, and to win internationally.”
He had other options in Italy, but there was something about this new challenge that piqued his interest.
“I did have some other choices in Italy, but I chose MLS because I felt that I finished my path in Italy. I won a lot of trophies, a lot of different championships with Juventus and I also won the Euro Cup with the Italian National Team,” Bernardeschi explained in Italian. “I chose to come here because I want to win. I want to invest in this project, this project that is Toronto, and I really want to win here.”
Like his countryman Lorenzo Insigne, Bernardeschi is available for Saturday’s match against Charlotte FC at BMO Field, but having just arrived, the club will not be rushing his inclusion.
“We hope so,” replied Bradley, asked if the duo could debut this weekend. “Federico did a little bit of training today, we had a small group on the field. Now we see every day how he feels. Lorenzo is still training on the side, but we're hopeful that in the next day or two, he'll be joining the group.”
“And then as we get toward the end of the week, we'll know,” he continued. “We want to get them both on the field as quickly as possible, but it has to be done in a smart way.”
He looked ready and eager, bouncing in time to the chants of the fans and ending the photo availability with a cry of ‘All for One.’
Bernardeschi will wear the #10 jersey for TFC, as he did at Fiorentina and with the Italian National Team.
“It's a huge responsibility, but I really like it,” he said via the translator. “And having this responsibility is something that you have to honour. I'm very honoured to wear the number 10 with Toronto.”