The president’s and technical director’s 2016 review

A successful season finishing too early. This is what the message was during this press conference with Montreal Impact president and owner, Joey Saputo, and the club’s technical director, Adam Braz. Here is a debrief of the subjects treated on this Friday morning at Centre Nutrilait.


On the change in the Montreal Impact Academy structure and the development of young players

Joey Saputo: “We will focus more on players who are closer to the first team and on players who have the potential to reach the first team faster, while still having a reserve team in place with Ottawa for certain players who could bloom a bit later. Our mentality has not changed for development, but the structure changes a bit.”

“I see this decision positively. We sent [Ballou Jean-Yves] Tabla to Bologna for two weeks to continue his growth. Other players will also do that kind of internship. For me, it is more positive than negative that FC Montreal does not exist anymore. With the U18s, the association with Ottawa and Bologna, I think we will be better positioned to develop young players who can reach the first team.”


On the association with Ottawa Fury FC

Adam Braz: “I think we will build a strong relationship with Ottawa and their technical staff. We will get feedback from them on our players over there. I also think it will push our young players in Ottawa to fight to earn minutes and to raise their level.”

“We can send the number of players we want. It’s a discussion to have with the Ottawa staff. For their playing time, they will have to fight for their spot, for their minutes with the Fury. It’s normal. We’ve already talked to them to let them know which players will be available at what time of the season.”


On Didier Drogba’s stint in Montreal

Joey Saputo: “The experience with Didier was positive. As I told him, I appreciate what he brought to the organization: the international credibility, his input to young players, his winning mentality, his positivity. For me, if I had to do it over again, it’s easy to say yes. He is someone who has brought a lot to the Montreal Impact organization.”

Adam Braz: “It’s fully positive. He brought credibility to the club, he played well. Last year, he scored important goals to bring us in the playoffs. This year, it’s 10 goals and 6 assists. He also brought a winning spirit. He certainly raised the level and the standard of other players. We all learned a lot of things during his 18 months here.”


On rumours around Swiss international Blerim Džemaili

Joey Saputo: “For Džemaili, he has a multi-year contract. He is in Bologna until June 2017 and he will be transferred here after. This is the beauty of having a club in Europe: having the opportunity to do such transactions. The partnership we have is easy. I know Bologna’s president, he’s a great guy.”

“Džemaili will be the new Montreal Impact Designated Player in June.”

Adam Braz: “Džemaili’s profile is very interesting for our team. We see him as a hybrid central midfielder between a no. 8 and a no. 10. He has the physical capacities to play box to box, and one of his main strengths is his ability to make late trailing runs in the box. He’s an international player with a lot of experience playing at the highest level. He’ll bring a lot to this group, not only on the field but also in the locker room with his experience.”


On the philosophical difference in finances and on the pitch between the Impact and Toronto FC

Joey Saputo: “I don’t think we need to spend so much money on Designated Players to win. We came very close to the final. I think we have to be intelligent in our spending. I’ve said so for a long time. We don’t have the means or the market to do this. We will have to be fiscally responsible in the way we operate.”

“We are looking for a team concept. The spine of the team has to have a certain experience. Do we want to spend our money on one player or on a team concept? When we brought Piatti in, nobody knew him, now he is among the best players in the league. A player can help, but we win as a team.”


On the adequacy between development and on-field success

Adam Braz: “Our job is to put the best possible team on the field to win and be successful. Homegrown players are important to us. We have to understand with young players, they have to be good enough and be at the level to compete every day and fight for minutes. In terms of trying to bring them along, we’re starting to see some very talented young players emerge from our academy, like [David] Choinière and Ballou who are exciting, attacking players. We’re trying to figure out a way to give them some minutes to help them progress. I definitely want to see some of our young players become starters on the team. First of all, they have to be at that level and be able to win their spot.”

Joey Saputo: “The academy is still very young. Choinière came in at the U12 level. Before that, a lot of kids who were part of the Academy came in at a later stage. As the Academy gets older, we’ll have more players who have been a part of it for the whole of their development.”


On the sport’s international aspect

Joey Saputo: “Of course we are better known in Italy and in Argentina. We have contacts, we are always over there. Because of our association or of what we have done in the past with international clubs, we have a certain credibility. And not just in Italy or in Argentina. It is important to continue to use the contacts we have. We sent young Tabla in Bologna for two weeks, for his development, but also to show the talent we have here to potentially do something with these players in Europe.”


On soccer culture in Quebec

Joey Saputo: “In Quebec, soccer is relatively new. I see the football mentality in Europe with Bologna. It’s different. In Europe, on Sunday, it’s only football. If we can create this here, on game day, create a special day… For 25 years, it has slowly been changing. Game day is exceptional. We felt it during the playoffs: the Impact has its place in the Montreal sports world. If we can have that more regularly, we have to change the culture a bit.”