They tried as best they could to put a brave face on it, but Kevin Gilmore and Olivier Renard couldn't disguise the fact that losing Thierry Henry is a huge blow to their club’s professional and marketing ambitions.
There is of course a human element to be considered and it’s clear when the former Arsenal, Barcelona and France great, eventually found himself torn between professional and family obligations, there could be only one winner.
As a disappointed Kevin Gilmore acknowledged, “I always say when you take decisions based on family they are good decisions.”
The President also spoke of the human challenges a season of lengthy re-locations away from Montreal had on the organization and how the prospect of beginning another year in the same way threatened to take its toll on many people, including, “Thierry and his children and he’s had to make a difficult decision to stay in London, and give up his position as head coach of the club, to be with his family.”
It’s been a turbulent close-season down Stade Saputo way and given the huge flurry of new players and those departing, and re-naming the club under a controversial if not unpopular re-branding, Gilmore and Renard could have done without this latest development. Patrice Bernier also left his coaching role within the past week (to be replaced by former player, Laurent Ciman).
Many of the new players joining the club, through a series of video-conferences had already spoken of their eagerness to come to Montreal attracted by the prospect of playing for Henry, whose departure is sure to have a negative effect on the morale of what almost amounts to a squad of strangers.
There is little doubt the Frenchman possesses pulling power when it comes to the transfer market.
His presence had also projected CF Montreal, and Montreal Impact beforehand, onto the world footballing map.
Gilmore: “In terms of marketing, of course it impacts us. We knew when Thierry Henry came on board, not only did he come as Olivier’s first choice as a coaching candidate, but also with a presence and reach that would only help us.
“But having said that we move on and will do all we can to basically grow this business on and off the field, and a big part of that is Olivier, and whomever he brings in as head coach. And that includes the new players we brought into the fold to make sure we have an exciting, new, competitive product on the field. When you have that, everything else takes care of itself.”
Olivier Renard stated he had a few names in mind as potential replacements and now with the announcement out of the way he will be reaching out “... as soon as this video-conference ends.”
The Belgian understandably, was keeping tight-lipped on names, but one that ticks many boxes is Patrick Vieira, the captain of Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’ in 2003/04. Vieira had a good record with New York City FC in MLS, including two Eastern Conference runner-up finishes, before heading across the Atlantic to a less happy spell as boss of OGC Nice in Ligue Un.
He is currently unattached and indeed was one of the names touted, along with Henry’s, for the manager job at AFC Bournemouth as recently as last week. Like Henry, Vieira would also bring presence and reach.
It was announced Wilfried Nancy will be in charge of training as pre-season gets underway this week.
Check out the latest The Ball Is Round Podcast. Recorded last evening, 24 Feb (before news of the Henry departure), we cover #CFMTL squad strength and depth heading into the new season and other Montreal soccer news... as well as the Canadian WNT at the She Believes Cup.
Every Week - The Ball Is Round...
@TBIRMontreal - please follow us for regular, weekly CF Montreal, Canadian, MLS and international content in English!