When first introduced to the Montreal media at Centre Nutrilait in October 2019, Olivier Renard cut an impressive, but slightly less-assured, Sporting Director than we see now.
Back then despite remaining focused on questions from the assembled media, the frequent fingering of his mobile device uncovered a nervous energy.
Today as in his more recent media appearances, CF Montreal’s sporting director has added more confidence and calm. He possesses the aura of a man on top of his game, someone who knows his indefatigable endeavour has delivered progress.
Renard’s has been a full plate since arriving in Montreal. In the few months since the Impact lost to New England in last season’s Play-In round until now, he’s brought nine players to the club. Throughout last season another six were promoted from the Academy and Mason Toye and Mustafa Kizza each arrived towards the end of term.
As well as this, no fewer than 12 players have left since the beginning of last season, creating budget enough to enable what amounts to a major transfusion.
But as everything else in football, it’s a results-based business, a fact not lost on the former goalkeeper. Sporting the new club logo, he had the perfect answer when quizzed about his confidence levels around the quality of player he’s bringing to the club...
“I am more confident than you journalists and the fans, I think. There are many players we signed that aren’t big names. So the pressure will be on me. I have no problem with that.
“I am very confident and happy with the players we have signed. When you are looking at players and you get the second or also the third choice, you are positive. When you go to maybe the tenth choice for only one reason, to make a transfer... that you need to take a player just to take a player, then that will be a problem.
“And the last transfers are players we want to keep and we are happy with... Torres, Johnsen and Hamdy: I trust these young players, even though people may doubt them because they are not well known.”
Renard talked of having diversity and greater competition for places within the squad, which is younger now and possesses a good blend of youth and experience.
What’s also apparent is cohesion; a clearly aligned working relationship between sporting director, Thierry Henry and the coaching staff. While pointing out that Bjorn Johnsen does not possess the type of player-profile the head coach would naturally see as a building block in his perfect team, there was agreement between the pair, that the Norwegian provides a different and worthwhile option.
“Speaking to the staff, I heard about the need for variety in attacking profiles and Johnsen brings something to us that we didn’t have,” said Renard.
“What was important for me was to bring in as much diversity of players to enable staff to tweak the squad, which in my eyes is now a more complete one.”
Renard was also adamant that Thierry Henry is in complete control of team selection and what happens on the field.
Renard also spoke of Keesean Ferdinand and Karifa Yao, the two young players recently loaned to CanPL clubs Atletico Ottawa and Cavalry respectively, and indicated CF Montreal was happy to do this, since uncertainty still surrounds the existence of the new u23 team in 2021.
“Rather than keeping them with us and just having training, we need to take it up a notch so that they gain experience.” “Why don’t we keep them here and train with the pro team? This is because we are not sure yet for the U23 league.
“For me, a player that is loaned out is not a player that we throw away. I want to see that player evolve,” Renard said.
“They are young players that trained almost every day with the first team last season, given the context of the pandemic. In my and Thierry’s eyes, they developed well and instead of having them stay put to have a training rhythm, we need them to take the next step and gain playing experience.”
Renard said Calgary and Ottawa took the lead in both cases and disclosed that a CanPL loan deal was likely also to be hatched for Tomas Giraldo (17), although the interested club wasn’t named.
Renard comes across at times somewhat aloof, perhaps simply the air of authority of a man who knows exactly what he’s doing. He’s a straight-talker, gives the the impression of someone who takes no nonsense and clearly is unafraid of taking tough decisions.
In addition there can be little doubt the Belgian has fashioned not only a widespread network of scouting contacts around the globe, but his organizational abilities and style have enabled a hugely significant amount of business to be conducted in an efficiently quiet manner, this close-season.
All CF Montreal needs now are those new players to settle, blend together and develop into a winning unit. Renard is in no doubt they will.
His dialogue this morning was impressive and much required by fans after the last well-publicized CFM press conference back in January which didn’t go so well.
The rest of us are with him, but in football, as in life, nothing is certain.