Ayo Akinola: Insigne will make Toronto FC “even more popular” – Whitecaps “were interested”

By FPL360


Exclusive interview 

It has not been an easy time for Toronto FC striker Ayo Akinola. The 22-year-old striker tore his ACL last July in the Gold Cup match against the United States and has since been on the road to recovery. In an exclusive interview with Transfermarkt, Akinola spoke about his injury, offers from other clubs, his new TFC contract, new head coach Bob Bradley and his excitement about playing with Lorenzo Insigne.

“I think I will be ready to return in April,” Akinola said when asked about his injury. “The most frustrating part of the injury was finding out that I had torn my ACL and hearing about the timeline. Then when you come out of surgery, and you are in pain 24/7, and you can’t move, can’t bend your leg.”

Akinola also pointed out the mental aspects, the doubts on whether the joint will ever get back to 100%. “It was just something that I had to learn to deal with,” Akinola said. “To know that everything will be good as long as my mind will be good.”

The 22-year-old, however, knows how to deal with obstacles and took the challenge head-on. People close to the striker pointed out to Transfermarkt that they were impressed with Akinola’s attitude to the injury.

Akinola: Interest “faded away” – Whitecaps enquired 

Perhaps it is something that comes with general life experiences? Born in Detroit, Akinola grew up in Brampton, Ontario, under challenging circumstances and even was homeless for some time, living a brief period in the family car. That puts the ACL injury in perspective and could explain the striker’s mental toughness when it comes to dealing with a painful injury and the cruel rehab.

That mental toughness also helped Akinola through a difficult contract situation this winter. Akinola’s contract with Toronto expired at the end of the 2021 season. Major League Soccer roster rules, however, meant that Toronto retained his MLS rights, making him a free agent only for foreign clubs.

Ayo Akinola tore his ACL while in action for the Canadian men's national team

Ayo Akinola tore his ACL while in action for the Canadian men’s national team

“There was definitely some interest,” Akinola said. “Clubs from Belgium, Holland, and England were interested. That was before the injury. One moment they were interested, and then next, it faded away. I think they were just unsure about my ACL injury, which is totally understandable.”

Another option were the Vancouver Whitecaps. “They were interested,” Akinola said. “There were many others, but they were one of them.” The Whitecaps would have had to trade for him with Toronto FC still holding his rights, and the interest never went beyond a general inquiry.

Akinola: Toronto FC “had the people I trusted the most”

For Akinola, Toronto FC were the number one priority anyhow. “I always wanted to finish my rehab with Toronto,” Akinola said. “I know that they have one of the top medical staffs in the league, and they had the people I trusted the most.”

Another reason was the arrival of new head coach Bob Bradley. “The coach really really bought into the youth,” Akinola said. “He also likes to play an exciting brand of football. That’s the type of environment, the type of culture he brings to the fans, and I want to be part of that.”

With Jozy Altidore having moved on, Akinola is expected to play a major role in Bradley’s setup this season. And Akinola should be back from his injury just in time to play with the league’s newest sensation Lorenzo Insigne.

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Thiago Almada | Atlanta United | Market value: $22m

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Maxime Crépeau | LAFC | Market value: $2.2m

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Albert Rusnák | Seattle Sounders | Market value: $2.75m

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Taty Castellanos | NYCFC | Market value: $7.7m

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Matt Turner | New England Revolution | Market value: $3.3m

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Alan Velasco | FC Dallas | Market value: $13.2m

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Luis Amarilla | Minnesota United | Market value: $1.98m

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Douglas Costa | LA Galaxy | Market value: $4.4m

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Brian White | Vancouver Whitecaps | Market value: $3.3m

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Lorenzo Insigne | Toronto FC | Market value: $38.5m

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Will arrive in the summer

Facundo Torres | Orlando City | Market value: $6.6m

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Cade Cowell | San Jose Earthquakes | Market value: $5.5m

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Daniel Sallói | Sporting Kansas City | Market value: $8.25m

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Lucas Zelarayán | Columbus Crew | Market value: $8.8m

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Caden Clark | New York Red Bulls | Market value: $3.85m

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Mikael Uhre | Philadelphia Union | Market value: $3.3m

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Sebastián Driussi | Austin FC | Market value: $7.7m

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Hany Mukhtar | Nashville SC | Market value: $7.15m

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David Ayala | Portland Timbers | Market value: $1.87m

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Ismaël Koné | CF Montréal | Market value: $55,000

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Max | Colorado Rapids | Market value: $385,000

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Xherdan Shaqiri | Chicago Fire | Market value: $8.8m

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Karol Swiderski | Charlotte FC | Market value: $6.6m

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Brenner | FC Cincinnati | Market value: $7.7m

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Gonzalo Higuaín | Inter Miami CF | Market value: $3.85m

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Taxiarchis Fountas | D.C. United | Market value: $3.3m

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Will join the club in the summer.

Sebastián Ferreira | Houston Dynamo | Market value: $4.18m

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Sergio Córdova | Real Salt Lake City | Market value: $1.1m

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The 30-year-old Italian winger will arrive on a free transfer from Napoli this summer in what is already the blockbuster transfer of the 2022 MLS season. “I am very excited,” Akinola said when asked about Insigne’s arrival. “Obviously, he’s a world-class player, he won the Euros last year, and he is coming in his prime. He will give us energy and make the city of Toronto even more popular.”

Full recovery, a new head coach, and Insigne arriving this summer, 2022 is already shaping up to be an exciting year for Akinola and Toronto FC fans. “I am very excited to come back.”




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