It started getting weird around the time Andrea D'Amico, the agent for Toronto FC's newest signing, Sebastian Giovinco, began filibustering his client's news conference.
Waving his arms delightedly and discoursing in Italian so rapid and unceasing the translator was rendered pointless, D'Amico lustily informed us about … well, I'm not sure what. All I can say for certain is it went on a long time.
"He's more excited than I am," Giovinco declared when it ended, in much slower Italian.
The pair seemed buoyant and who can blame them? They've just managed what amounts to a bank heist and they didn't need guns.
Until last week an out-of-favour sub on a good Juventus team, Giovinco is being paid $7-million (U.S.) a year by Toronto FC, with some add-ons. That makes him the top earner in Major League Soccer. Ever.
He's also now the highest-paid Italian soccer player in the world. Unlike Giovinco, many of those other Italians actually play for clubs in Italy.
He seems like a pleasant young man. He doesn't speak a word of English. Until Thursday, he'd never been in Canada. On Friday, he happily admitted to never having watched an MLS game.
The equivalent in your life might be if you were offered a job as a crane operator in Djibouti at five times your current salary, starting tomorrow.
Where's Djibouti? Not sure.
What language do they speak there? No idea.
How do I work a crane, because …? You should stop asking questions and hail a cab. Your plane leaves in 15 minutes.
We've seen how this ends before. On a loop.
Toronto FC lures them into the trap with a pile of cash. It bags them and tags them. After a few weeks of indoctrination, it frees them into the wild. After a year, they've run off home.
It's easy to be cynical. Until there's tangible evidence to the contrary, it's also sensible. The new guy didn't help much in that regard.
Asked to explain why he came, if not just for the money, Giovinco revealed a nobler purpose – he hates Italy.
"In Italy, I had many problems. They were all talking about me as a player who couldn't play at a high level, but I always demonstrated with facts that was not correct. I wanted to find a city, a team, that from the beginning welcomed me."
Toronto is Giovinco's rebound girlfriend. Wait? She's rich, too?!
He hadn't noticed. Honest. Give Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment this much – it will pay anything to make this club a winner. It will pay stupid money for the chance to lose an even stupider amount.
MLSE didn't pay its previous disaster, Jermain Defoe, this much. However, it did fork over $100,000 in rent for his two Toronto homes. A hundred thousand a month. It wasn't even in his contract. They just paid it to be … I don't know, agreeable.
Giovinco isn't Defoe. If he were, Juventus wouldn't have let him go. He is talented, in a tricksy way. Put it like this – there are no mopes on the Italian national team. He's also knee-high to a grasshopper.
It remains to be seen if his finesse game and elfin frame translate to the muscular physical environs of MLS. He seemed unconcerned – "If you can't get there by strength, you can get there by other means."
However, to recap – he's never watched a full game.
There is nothing here to suggest this won't work out, except history.
If Giovinco, still only 28, lights this league on fire, he'll try to leverage that increased profile for a starting job in Europe. If he's middling to terrible, he'll stick around to fill his boots. That's not cynical. It's common sense.
It's not a reason to avoid signing him. Though they all talk a lot of nonsense about finding a home and building something, every athlete is first-and-foremost a mercenary. Being paid to fight doesn't preclude you from being good at it.
As Toronto FC general manager Tim Bezbatchenko put it, rather too perfectly: "This isn't an adventure. It's a crusade."
In the end, Giovinco's primary motivation won't be the millions, since he has them now. It'll be bitterness at the way he was treated back home and the chance to return there on his own terms. There's nothing wrong with that, either. Anger is a more reliable spur to performance than getting all misty over a bused-in crowd cheering you through the airport.
What Toronto FC needs from him isn't a long, highlight-filled career (though that'd be nice).
It needs one good year. Just one year, a playoff berth and no public meltdowns. If Giovinco can give TFC that, it'll be money well spent.
This is the spot where we talk about last chances. This isn't that. If Giovinco fails or gives up or flees in terror, they'll go out and overpay another Giovinco. The world's full of them and they're all greedy.
The more ominous question is, have they already wasted their last chance? Was Defoe the bust that killed this club's opportunity to become a citywide concern, rather than a cult favourite?
Underneath the shrill hype attending this lesser signing, that's the real theme of the coming season: existential dread.