Young, strong and mature with leadership qualities, it looked like Montreal Impact had unearthed a gem when acquiring Luis Binks from Tottenham Hotspur’s under-age network.
And yet, although such an outlook remains, the player’s discovery is unlikely to reap much in the way of dividend for the Montreal club.
While the 18 year-old’s move to ‘sister-club’ Bologna is good news for the player and Joey Saputo’s Italian club, it doesn’t reflect too well on this side of the Atlantic. No fee is involved and so far no hint has emerged of a player of similar quality moving in the opposite direction. In the absence of any statement from the Montreal organization to the contrary, it appears simply to emphasize the Impact’s position as a feeder club to the Italian operation.
Yes, it could be argued that Montreal has benefitted more from the arrangement between Saputo’s two clubs having received the likes of Marco di Vaio, Blerim Dzemaili and Saphir Taider from the Serie A outfit, but when you consider the list of players who arrived on these shores from the Rossoblu, it becomes even clearer the confines of Stade Saputo are merely a convenience for the Italians.
The only players Bologna have been willing to off-load to help the Impact are those they consider at the end of their careers, or those who couldn’t cut it in Serie A. The one real exception is Blerim Dzemaili, who of course successfully returned to Stadio Renato Dall’Ara after his short sojourn in Montreal.
Arguably to Dzemaili’s name, you could add that of Lassi Lappalainen and perhaps Orji Okwonkwo, although the Finn still has much to prove and you can’t really see Okwonkwo going back to Serie A and carving out a career there.
Of the rest, Andrea Pisani, Daniele Paponi, Deian Boldor and Matteo Mancosu, none of which could be considered successes in Montreal, have all drifted into lower league football shortly after returning to Bologna from Montreal.
As Binks is the first significant player to move in the opposite direction, there is an argument suggesting the balance of benefit so far has been felt in Montreal, not Italy.
But what if Impact Sporting Director Olivier Renard uncovers a Miggy Almiron from South America, an equally good player from Europe as has been his speciality, or the Academy develops the next Alphonso Davies? It has to be assumed that sister-cum-big brother Bologna get first dibs and the Impact is left empty-handed again.
It also calls into question the role of Olivier Renard. If his job is to identify young talent to develop with and improve Montreal Impact, with a sell-on value, which club will benefit from the sell-on? If Renard’s more successful recruits beat an established path to Bologna, then the answer is obvious. It appears Walter Sabatini will win any argument hands down
This may all be well and good. The model if this is the intention, may work. It’s plain and obvious that Serie A for a multitude of reasons must be the owner’s priority, but Impact fans do not deserve to be left short-changed either, and they’ll be looking for quality reinforcements from the owner’s Italian club, more in line with the Di Vaios and Dzemailis than the Paponis or Pisanis.
More suspicious observers may even feel Binks was actually lured to Montreal Impact with the carrot of Bologna and Serie A dangling in front.
The player himself talking to Kent Sports News (KSN) admitted he was aware of Bologna interest...
“I knew there was interest when I signed [for Montreal Impact] but I made it clear I wanted to play first team games and Bologna, being in one of the best leagues in the world, couldn’t guarantee that and so I chose to come to Montreal as I knew if I worked hard there may be more of a chance. I’ve come to Canada and played eight games and must have impressed!
“I’ve been watching Bologna very closely for a few games and they play some great football and have a lot of players who have played at the very top for a long, long time so it seems a good group. Also, the manager Siniša Mihajlović is someone who had a great career, so I’ll look forward to working with him.
“They seem to be on the up as they have a new training ground which I’ve visited and a new stadium which is soon to be built – it’s all very exciting!
“I’ve been learning a little bit of Italian but it’s going to take some work – I know I’ve got to pull my finger out!”
Binks will remain in Montreal until the conclusion of the MLS season, feeling there is unfinished business to complete. “It’s a chance for me to play some more games and get some more vital experience under my belt.
“I also think I owe it to the club and to the fans to stay here as it’s been a very weird year. I want to see it out and get in the Play-offs to give the club something to smile about. I don’t think it would be right for me to move on without seeing it through; that wouldn’t be right for myself or for the club and its fans.”
Fans on this side of the Atlantic could possibly be somewhat reassured were the Impact to imminently issue a statement detailing clearly a ‘what’s in it for us’ message for such transfer arrangements going forward.
There’s too much concern and not just a little anger with the Binks development in Montreal right now. It would be less beneficial to wait for the next Impact-discovered player to move freely to Bologna before transparency is provided.