Experience, philosophy, and language

Rémi Garde comes to Montreal with an impressive resume

Three weeks later, the Montreal Impact president has kept his word. During the Bleu-blanc-noir’s season recap, on Monday, October 23, Joey Saputo announced that the club was looking for a head coach with international experience, an attractive playing philosophy, a personality that fits with the city’s values and who could communicate with supporters. Rémi Garde’s nomination at the helm of the first team checks all the boxes.

Born and raised in Lyon

The 51-year-old born in L’Arbresle has spent his whole life in football. A product of the Olympique Lyonnais academy, he integrated in the renowned training centre before earning a promotion to the first team, helping them return to Ligue 1 at the end of the 1988-89 season under Raymond Domenech, after six years in Ligue 2. It’s around that time that the current president of the club, Jean-Michel Aulas, bought the OL and presented a plan to make the team a leader of French football – we’ll come back to that later.

As a defensive midfielder and even sometimes a defender, his influence was clear in the heart of the Lyon squad and his manager quickly gave him the captain’s armband. The Olympique Lyonnais, within a few years, joined the best teams in France and even qualified for the UEFA Cup with a fifth-place finish in 1990-91. Garde also topped his team’s goal scoring chart in 1992-93 in an ultimately disappointing campaign for OL, which would be Garde’s last in the Rhône region.

His transfer to RC Strasbourg, in 1993, allowed him to win the late UEFA Intertoto Cup, in 1995-96, on the way to a round of 16 exit in the UEFA Cup, and to take part in a Coupe de France final. But most of all, he caught the eye of a former Strasbourg player who went to coach in Japan and who was linked to a North London club.

A Wenger disciple

In the summer of 1996, under the recommendation of Arsène Wenger, Arsenal looked in France for two midfielders. Rémi Garde signed with the Gunners at the same time as Patrick Vieira. The man from Lyon helped Wenger’s team win a Premier League-FA Cup double in 1998, and would also become the first player born outside Britain to wear the captain’s armband for Arsenal.

After his retirement, in 1999, he briefly operated as a scout for Arsenal before going back to his hometown club, in 2003. Garde worked under the guidance of Paul Le Guen and Gérard Houllier, winning six of the seven consecutive Ligue 1 championships for Lyon, a run made possible for the most part because of their academy.

Youth development at OL

In 2010, Garde became the director of Lyon’s training centre, one of the best and most productive in Europe, on par with Real Madrid for the number of players who have played in Europe’s top five leagues. His qualities as a trainer and his leadership helped many young and promising Lyon players, who would later on get opportunities in the first team.

The former midfielder would not stay in this job for long, being promoted to first team manager in 2011. He guided the OL until 2014 and enabled many players to cement a starting spot in Lyon’s line-up, but also in the French national team: Alexandre Lacazette, Samuel Umtiti, Anthony Martial, Nabil Fekir, Corentin Tolisso, among others, benefited from Garde’s coaching to better themselves on the pitch.

Mission impossible at Aston Villa

He returned to England, as a manager this time, with Aston Villa, for a short stint. Hired in November 2015 to replace Tim Sherwood in Birmingham, he inherited a depleted squad that had not finished above 15th place since 2011-12 and that only won four points in 11 games. In his first game in charge of the Villans, he earned a 0-0 draw against Manchester City, but it was already too little too late for Aston Villa, at the bottom of the Premier League table. Without any help coming in during the January transfer window, Garde was let go at the end of March and Villa still has not returned to the top of England’s pyramid.

The Quebec chapter

Rémi Garde now comes to Montreal with a few months ahead of him to build a team and prepare the 2018 season, which we can only hope will bring success to the Bleu-blanc-noir. We now have to wait until March… are we there yet?